Library > Research Assistance > Evaluating Resources

Evaluating Resources

Access to online resources opens a vast amount of information to faculty and students but also brings new evaluation responsibilities. Electronic resources have much to offer but users must assume responsibility for judging quality and truthfulness.

When you use a research or academic library, such as Calvin T. Ryan Library, the books, journals and other resources have already been evaluated by scholars, publishers and librarians. Every resource you find has been evaluated in one way or another before you ever see it.

When you are using the World Wide Web, none of this applies. Unlike printed and online journals/magazines and other resources, there is no "filtering" mechanism such as peer review or editing for many of the materials on the Internet. Sites are simply made available by anyone who wishes, with no selection process or criteria. Accurate, reliable information may share the screen with information that is inaccurate, incomplete, or even intentionally false.

Before using information found on a web page for your research project, consider the following criteria to evaluate it's quality and credibility:

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? Is this easily determined?
  • 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 or institution? Would this affiliation in any way bias the information or does it add credibility?
  • 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.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

You may also consider using the Evaluating a Web Site for Research Rubric to determine if a web site is suitable for research.

CRAAP Test created by Meriam Library at California State University, Chico.