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Evaluation of Sources: Evaluating Web Sources

Web

We have a handy acronym to help you determine whether a website may be trustworthy or not -

How to tell if it is CRAP:

CURRENCY

  • Does the page display a date or copyright? When was the last update?
  • How current are the links? Are any broken?

Why is this important?

  • Publication dates give a sense of whether the site is ‘active’ or whether it is an orphan site.
  • Dates may indicate when the site was last updated, but also when the material was first written, revised, or published on the web.

RELIABILITY

  • Is the information reliable and error-free? (Facts, spelling, grammar, etc.)
  • Can you tell if someone fact-checked the site – is there an editor?
  • To what other pages does the site link? Is the information presented clearly and effectively?

Why is this important?

  • Web resources rarely have fact-checkers unless the sponsoring organization does.
  • No web standards exist to ensure accuracy.

AUTHORITY

  • Is there an author? What are their credentials? Is there a way to contact them?
  • What organization is responsible for the content? Are they reputable?
  • Is there a link to more information about the author or organization?
  • If no author or organization is noted, are there any other ways to determine the page’s origin? (i.e. a header or footer showing affiliation; info from the URL and domain name)

Why is this important?

  • The web is an open medium. Anyone with any level of expertise can publish on the web.
  • Authorship and the qualifications of an author can be difficult to determine.

POINT OF VIEW

  • Is there a bias or slant to the information presented?
  • Is the page designed to sway opinion?
  • Is there any advertising on the page? How much? What kind?

Why is this important?

  • The goals of the author or organization may not be clearly stated. Advertisement is often masked as content on the web.
  • The web can serve as a virtual soapbox – determining fact from opinion can be difficult.

A quick primer on domain names

.com “commercial” A for-profit site selling you something (including information, i.e. nytimes.com)
.net “network” Usually similar to a .com
.org “organization” A non-profit (perhaps still selling something – opinion, ideas, etc.)
.edu “education” An educational institution, college, or university
.gov “government” Sponsored by the U.S. Government