When looking at any source, the key questions to ask yourself are 1. who is writing this, and 2. why?
When looking for sources–particularly websites–think about whether or not they are reliable. You want your paper to contain sources written by unbiased and professional experts, not businessmen with commercial interests. The C.R.A.A.P method is a fabulous tool for assessing the credibility and reliability of sources, as a starting point. Additional questions you may want to consider when investigating a website include:
- Who is providing the information?
- What do you know about him/her and his/her credentials?
- Is he/she an expert?
- Can you find out more and contact him/her?
- Search for author or publisher in search engine. Has the author written several publications on the topic?
- Does the author support the information with works cited or links to other sources?
- Is there a sponsor or affiliation?
- Who is linking to the page?
- Do they take responsibility for the content?
- Does the organization or author indicate there will be bias?
- Is the purpose of the website to inform or to spread an agenda?
- Is there an "About" link?
- Is the site personal, commercial, governmental, organizational, or educational? (.com, .gov, .org, .edu)
- Are there ads? Are they trying to make money?
- Why did they write the article?
- Is the site a content farm? (A content farm is a site whose content has been generated by teams of low-paid freelancers who write large amounts of text to raise the site’s search engine rankings.)
- Copy and paste a sentence into Google to see if the text can be found elsewhere.
- Are there links to related sites? Are they organized?
- Are citations or a bibliography provided?
- When was the source last updated?
- Does the source even have a date?
- Is the source professional?
- Does it seem like current design?
- Is the website user-friendly?
- What kinds of images are used?
- Is the navigation menu well-labeled?
- Are there spelling or grammar errors?
- Do the pages appear uncluttered?
- Are there ads or pop-ups on the page?
- Are links working?
- Was it reproduced? If so, from where? Type a sentence in Google to verify.
- If it was reproduced, was it done so with permission? Is copyright/disclaimer included?
Keep in mind that everything is written from a particular social, cultural, and political perspective. Realize that some publications tend to be ‘slanted’ towards a certain viewpoint. For example, the CATO Institute is known for being libertarian, while The Nation is known to lean left, politically. Keep these slants in mind when you are researching.
Try evaluating some of your favorite websites using this Website Evaluator tool from Imagine Easy Academy
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