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Evaluating sources

Cartoon by Peter Steiner, New Yorker, July 5, 1993


With so much new and constantly changing information on the Internet, it is critical to evaluate websites that you intend to use in research.  The following guide will help you determine if a particular website is a reliable source of information.



  • When was the last update on the website? 
  • When was the information posted on the website?


  • What kind of information is included in the website?
  • Based on your other research, is it accurate? ...complete?
  • Is the content primarily fact, or opinion?
  • Is the information balanced, or biased?
  • Does the author provide references for quotations and data?
  • If there are links, do they work?

Authority: Who wrote the web page?  Was it a commercial, government, academic, organizational or personal web site?

  • Authored by an individual: can you determine the person’s qualifications? Is the author associated with an organization?
  • Authored by an organization: what are the goals of the organization? Is contact information for the organization provided?
  • Authored by a business or commercial organization: Is something being sold on the site?
  • Is there a way to contact the author?

Purpose/Point of View

  • What's the intent of the website (to persuade, to sell you something, etc.)?
  • What is the domain (.edu, .org, .com, etc.)? How might that influence the purpose/point of view?
  • Are there ads on the website? How do they relate to the topic being covered (e.g., an ad for ammuntion next to an article about firearms legislation)?
  • Is the author presenting fact, or opinion?
  • Who might benefit from a reader believing this website?
  • Based on the writing style, who is the intended audience?

Though not part of the C.R.A.P. test, I think it's valuable to look at how the site is presented.



  • How does the web page look?  Is the information easy to read?
  • Is there advertising on the page?
  • Are parts of the website distracting to the information provided?

Using the criteria above, evaluate these two websites to determine which would be better to use in academic research.

C.R.A.P check sheet

MLK, Jr Site #1 

MLK, Jr. Site #2


Another good comparison are these two sites.

Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

Giant Palouse Earthworm



The following websites are helpful in evaluating sources:


CSU Chico Meriam Library source check sheet


The OWL at Purdue University