However, many students Google their topics and then use information located on related websites to gather information for their papers.
Often, these sites contain old or inaccurate information. So, how can a student decide what is a good website? They can use the CRAAP test!
Currency Relevancy Authority Accuracy Purpose
Currency – This refers to how new or old is the information. Information from just a couple of years ago may be out of date. It really depends on the topic.
First thing you should do is look for dates on the website. Has it been updated recently? Or, has it been a while since the last update? If it has been a while, then you may have out of date information. Some information expires much quicker than others. If the website is on the topic of science, technology, or business, then information on these subjects have a much shorter shelf life than information on humanities or social sciences.
Next Look for broken links. Are there a lot? If so, then it may have been a while since the last time this website was updated.
Relevancy – Is the information on the website relevant to what you need? Look at the scope of the site and its focus. Is that your topic? Is it a closely related topic? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.
Authority – Who is the author or creator of this website? This information should be located somewhere on the site. What are the author’s credentials? What are their affiliations? Can you verify their qualifications?
You need to look at who is hosting or sponsoring this website. All organizations have a point of view and the website may only give information relevant to their point of view. Always consider what is the information for the other side of the argument.
Look at the domain. Is it a .com, .org, .edu, or .gov? Each of these domains have a different meaning. If the domain has the names GeoCities, Yahoo, AngelFire, etc., these are all free websites and anyone with access to a computer can create them.
Accuracy – Does the website give sources for the information provided? Information given should be supported by a bibliography or a list of references. Look for this information. Are the facts verifiable? Are they in-line with information found on other websites? Do the pages on this website have authors? Do they have attribution?
If the website has a bibliography or a reference list, are the sources credible? Do you recognize the sources? Are they current? Do they point to external websites? Or, do they just point to different pages on the same website?
Purpose – What is the purpose of this site? Remember back to authority. Is it an organization with a point of view or an agenda that they wish to further? What is the site trying to do? Entertain? Inform? Persuade? Sell you something?
Is the author biased? Is the information presented in a fair, balanced, and moderate manner? Or it is emotional and extreme? Is there a sponsor? This could give you a clue as to the purpose.
While using the CRAAP test is not fool-proof, it will definitely give you the tools to make an educated guess. Remember, when in doubt, ask a librarian!