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Summer Start 2015: Evaluating Information

Crap detection

“Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him."    
          ~Ernest Hemingway, 1954

Why Evaluate web sources?

  • Anyone with a little time, some knowledge and small amount of money can publish on the Internet.

  • No person, persons or organization reviews the content of the Internet.

  • Pages are retrieved by search engines based on the page's content, not the relevancy or quality of the page.

  • Much information on the Web is not updated regularly.

It’s up to YOU to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes. “Crap detection,” as Hemingway called it half a century ago, is more important than ever before.

The Gingrich Guide has more information on evaluating source material.

URLs

The URL for a website can tell you a lot about the purpose of a webpage. 

.com = commercial site

.net =network provider

.org =organization

.edu =education - school or university

.mil = military website

.gov = government website

.com, .net, and .org sites are less regulated, meaning anyone can register for a website with that domain.  .edu, .mil, and .gov sites are MORE REGULATED, and tend to be more reliable. 

C.R.A.A.P. Test

When evaluating websites or any other information sources, use the following CRAAP test to help evaluate the information you find.  This checklist applies to any resource you may use for a school assignment, but keep in mind that some items are specific to websites. 


Currency : The timeliness of the information.
 

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance : The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority : The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?   Examples:
    • .com - commercial site
    • .edu - school or university site
    • .gov - government website
    • .org - for-profit or non-profit organization site
Note: Domains such as .ca (Canada) or .au (Australia) are country-specific domain names. It is not easy to tell what type of organization is behind these domain names so use some of the other criteria to evaluate the website. 
 

Accuracy : The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

 Purpose : The reason the information 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?

 

The CRAAP test is provided by the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.

Video: C.R.A.A.P. Test Song

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Most of the time when you are searching databases provided by a school or university, the content has a good chance of being reliable. 

However, when searching the internet via Google or other search engines, the chances of finding unreliable sites is much higher.

Review the following sites based on the CRAAP criteria:

Do the above sites seem like authoritative resources? Why or why not?

Use critical thinking skills and evaluate the websites you find!