Skip to main content

Using Sources: Evaluating Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism: Websites

How to Evaluate Websites - Quick Tips

Sometimes, it is useful to supplement your research with information from the open web.  Government statistics can be especially useful.  Evaluation becomes much trickier on the open web, however, because anyone can publish on the Internet.  Luckily, our evaluation criteria for websites are the same as those for library sources. 

    

Look on each website for an "About Us" page to answer some of the following questions:

Who is the author?        

           What are his/her qualifications?

         Why was the website created?

   When was it last updated?

           How reliable is the information?

Apply the CRAAP Test!

WHO is the author?

Look for:

  • an author name at the top or end of the webpage
  • an "About Us" section to learn more about the organization and people involved with it

WHAT are the author's/organization's qualifications?

Look for:

  • the author's or organization's credentials in the website's "About Us" section.  Check for relevant academic degrees and experience.
  • news reports or other websites that report on or cite the author or organization.  Google them or check an article database such as Proquest.

HOW reliable is the information?

Compare the information with what you've learned from other sources, including encyclopedias, books, periodical articles, or other websites.

Check to see if the website tells you what sources it used, such as books, periodical articles, other websites, or experts.

Any obvious sloppiness, such as spelling problems, typos, or dead links? If a website is sloppy in some areas, it may be sloppy in others -- such as accuracy.


What is the reputation of the author or organization?

WHEN was it last updated?

Is currency important for your topic?

Check the top or bottom of the webpage for a date.

WHY was the website created?

Websites can be created for many purposes -- to entertain, to sell products, to educate or to advocate for a particular point of view are just some examples.

Check the website's "About Us" section for information on the site's purpose or mission.

Also check the domain name in the URL for insight into the site's mission. Here are examples of domain names associated with different types of organizations:

  • .com = commercial organization: www.webmd.com
  • .net = originally intended for businesses involved in Internet infrastructure, but often treated as an alternative to .com: www.whois.net
  • .org = non-profit organization: www.nra.org
  • .edu = educational institution: www.nvcc.edu
  • .gov = government organization: www.nasa.gov
  • .mil = military organization: www.navy.mil
  • .co.xx = country the site's from, where xx= the abbreviation for the country: www.bbc.co.uk

Objectivity and Bias -- Websites may take a particular point of view about a topic, so think about the tone that's used, and also find out what you can about the author or sponsoring organization and whether or not they have any biases or conflicts of interest. If the site discusses a controversial topic, does it discuss different points of view?

 

Video: Website Evaluation

From Ohlone College

Find Good Websites

You can search Google for information and limit results from a specific type of website, such as .gov or .edu domains.  If you want to search for information about the Affordable Care Act on government websites, you could search:

Google Searchbox with .gov search

Be sure to include the period [.] before the domain suffix [.gov or .edu or .org].  There are no spaces in site:.gov

Government and educational websites are more reliable than most .com or .org sites.  Government websites are authoritative sources of information on every topic imaginable - employment, suicide rates, agriculture, immigration, crime and more.  They are especially good for statistics.