However, many students Google their topics and use information found on websites for their research 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
Use the "CRAAP" test to evaluate online resources and websites!
For any information you find online, ask yourself the following questions. If the information doesn't pass the "CRAAP" test, you probably should not use it.
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!
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 Information from just a couple of years ago may be out of date.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 If it has been a while, then you may have out of date information.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.
Web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer simply retrieve and display websites, and search engines simply list websites containing terms that you designate. They do not evaluate the accuracy or value of the websites, and there are sites that contain inaccurate, out-of-date, and even false information. You are responsible for determining the usefulness of a website. The following guidelines will help you evaluate Web resources.
Types of Web Resources
There are many different types of information available on the Web, but most Web pages can be categorized into one (or more) of five basic types:
Business or marketing pages are usually published by companies or other commercial enterprises.
Their primary purpose is to promote the company or to sell products. Business and marketing pages often include a mixture of information, entertainment and advertisements.
For U.S. based sites, the URL or Web address usually ends in .com
For international-based sites, the URL or Web address often ends in .co.** (** is the two letter country extension).
News and current events sites provide extremely up-to-date information, and include news centers, newspapers and other periodicals.
Some news and current events sites may only provide a limited amount of free information–a few days worth to a few weeks worth– and/or may require registration.
Informational pages provide factual information on a particular topic.
Informational pages are often provided by government (.gov) or educational institutions (.edu) and may include reference materials, research reports, databases, calendars of events, statistics, etc.
Advocacy pages are usually published by an organization with the purpose of influencing public opinion.
The URL address of an advocacy Web page frequently ends in .org (organization).
Personal pages are published by individuals who may or may not be part of a larger group or organization.
Personal Web pages may include almost any type of information including biographical data, information on work, hobbies, etc.
Examples include individual or family home pages, individual faculty or students at a university, and member pages from an Internet Service Provider.
For U.S. based sites, the URL often includes a tilde (~).
Here is a helpful overview on evaluating sources from Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL):