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Research Basics: Evaluating Online Sources

The nuts and bolts of college-level research, with links, tips, and explanations.

Evaluating Websites

Researchers generally use websites in two ways:

  1. Research artifact -- Something you're writing about or using as an example. Any website can be used.
  2. Research source -- Primary or secondary sources that support or anchor your argument/discussion. Use only trustworthy, authoritative sites. 

Your argument is only as credible as your sources.

 

Website Evaluation ABCD

Search smarter with Google Advanced Search

Tell Google what you're really looking for. Go beyond keywords by using Advanced Search.

For more authoritative websites, select .gov, .org, or .edu in the domain field. Websites on these domains are generally not trying to sell you anything, and often provide better information.

The C.R.A.P. Test

The CRAP test is similar to the ABCD test, but more fun to talk about. Apply this to articles, websites, blog posts, textbooks, etc. 

 

Currency:

  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?

Reliability:

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?  Is is balanced?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

Authority:

  • Who is the creator or author?
  • What are the credentials?
  • Who is the published or sponsor?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?
  • Are there advertisements on the website?

 Purpose/Point of View:

  • Is this fact or opinion?
  • Is it biased?
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell you something?