Checking for and exploring a source's bibliography or references will shed light on the research the author did before publishing the information they distributed. If the author gives no clues as to where they got the information or convincing data/proof to back up their original research, it is best to avoid that source. Even Wikipedia does its best to provide readers with references for every topic entry.
Evaluating a source is more than just going through a checklist to see if an article or website pass certain criteria.
Below you will find an outline of the CRAAP test that can help lead your questioning when approaching a new source. Your answers to these questions should be more than a simple "yes" or "no." What other questions arise when looking at a source, and what background information should you research in order to get the full story.
Think about these factors when evaluating a Web page (or other resource):
C = Currency
R = Relevance
A = Authority
A = Accuracy
P = Purpose
Currency: The timeliness of the Web page. If relevant, when was the information gathered? When was it posted? When was it last revised? Are links functional and up-to-date? Is there evidence of newly added information or links?
Relevance/Coverage: The uniqueness of the content and its importance for your needs. What is the depth and breadth of the information presented? Is the information unique? Is it available elsewhere, in print or electronic format? Could you find the same or better information in another source? Who is the intended audience? Does the site provide the information you need? Your overall assessment is important. Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Authority: The source of the Web page. Who is the author/creator/sponsor? Are author's credentials listed? Is the author a teacher or student of the topic? Does the author have a reputation? Is there contact information, such as an e-mail address? Has the author published works in traditional formats? Is the author affiliated with an organization? Does this organization appear to support or sponsor the page? What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything? Example: .com .edu .gov .org .net
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content. Where does the information come from? Are the original sources of information listed? Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge? Has the information been reviewed or refereed? Does the language or tone seem biased? Are there spelling, grammar, or other typos?
Purpose: The presence of bias or prejudice/The reason the Web site exists. Are possible biases clearly stated? Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable? Are editorials clearly labeled? Is the purpose of the page stated? Is the purpose to: inform? teach? entertain? enlighten? sell? persuade? What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything? Example: .com .edu .gov .org .net
*Modified version of CRAAP Test created by Meriam Library at California State University, Chico