Finding accurate, reliable sources of information on the Internet can be a challenge. As a rule of thumb, some of the best information on the web comes from government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations. However, all sources should be carefully evaluated before you use them. An easy way to remember how to evaluate information is to apply the C.R.A.A.P Test.
When was the information published or posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
Are the links functional?
Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
Who is the intended audience?
Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
For example: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (government), .org (nonprofit organization)?
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
Thanks to the librarians at California State University, Chico for developing the CRAAP test.
While it may seem easier to do a web search for information rather than use a library database, you need to critically evaluate web sites. While there are numerous web pages that describe how to evaluate a web site, in additiona to the C.R.A.A.P Test, here are a few other websites that you may find useful:
Evaluation Criteria: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly:or, Why It's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources
Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask
Website Evaluation Wizard
Five criteria for evaluating Web pages (Cornell University)