Website Evaluation (C.R.A.A.P. Test)

Evaluating Free Web Sources – The C.R.A.A.P. Test

When you search the free web for information, you need to evaluate the website/web page to determine if the information is reliable.  When evaluating sources found on the free web, answer as many of the questions below to determine if the source is one you should use or if it is…

C

Currency


  • Is the information current enough for your topic? Is it important to your topic?

  • When was the page/article published, reviewed or updated?

    • Check for broken links. Broken links often indicate the page has not been updated recently.

R

Relevance


  • Is the Information about your topic?

  • Does it help you to answer your research question?

  • Can you understand the information that you’re reading?

A

Authority


  • Who is the author/creator?

    • An author can be one person, more than one person, or an organization, agency, company, or an institution.

  • Does the person(s)/organization who created the information have the education/ experience to be an expert?

  • Is contact information provided?

  • Is the page a personal page*? (Look for any of the following in the URL: %, ~, “users”, “AOL”, or “yahoo”.)

A

Accuracy


  • Is the information error free?

  • Is it supported by evidence within the paper or through a bibliography or works cited?

  • Can you confirm / verify  the information in another source?

P

Purpose & Point of View


  • Ask yourself, “Why does this site exist?”

    • Is it to entertain, to persuade you, to inform you, to get you to purchase something?

    • Look at the Mission or About US page. If there isn’t one, be suspicious.  

  • Is the information balanced or biased? Look at the language, tone, or treatment of its subject.

  • Who is the publisher/sponsor of the site AND are they reputable?

    • If you’re reading an article about the impact smoking has on your health and it’s sponsored by the tobacco industry, would you trust it?

  • What is the domain (.edu, .com, .org, .net, .gov)? How might this influence the purpose/point of view? See Understanding URLs.




Understanding URLs: Look at the web address (URL)


Understanding a URL’s domain (the 3 letter combination at the end of URL) can be helpful in determining reliability, authority, and purpose and point of view of a website. All websites should be evaluated using the C.R.A.A.P test and reliability should never be determined solely based on the domain.

.com = Commercial Site

The most common domain. Dot.coms have a monetary incentive behind them, so evaluate these carefully. Is the site trying to persuade you to purchase something or promote a particular product? Not all .coms are bad, but if they’re not from a well known, reliable source, they should be looked at very carefully.


.edu = Educational Institution

What type of educational institution is posting the information? Is it a primary school? A high school? A college / university? If it’s from a college professor’s page, and s/he’s an expert in the field, then it’s likely reliable. If it’s from a student’s personal web page* provided by the school (regardless of level), then it’s not reliable.


.gov = Government Site

Any site with this domain is a federal government site. The information is considered to be reliable source. These are also the best web sources for health information.


.org = Organization

Dot.orgs are typically non-profit organizations that provided unbiased information, such as the American Red Cross or PBS. However, .orgs are not automatically reliable (e.g., http://www.martinlutherking.org/ is sponsored by StormFront a white nationalist group).


.mil = Military Site

These domains are official sites from the Armed Forces of America.


.net = Network Sites

This type of site is a catch-all for sites that don’t fit into the other types of domains. These sites need to be evaluated very carefully.


Two letter domains

URLs that contain two letter domains, such as .ca, .jp, .au, etc. indicate the site is from another country.


*Personal Page

Be very careful of personal pages. Unless the person is an expert in their field, you want to avoid these types of pages. What to look for:


  • ~  tilde or percentage sign  %  typically followed by a name

  • the word users

  • personal names (Jones)

  • Blogs are also primarily personal pages  (If it’s a blog from a major publication and the person is a staff writer, these are considered reliable. For example, a blog writer for Sports Illustrated. If it’s just a random person writing the information, avoid that page.)  

  • K-12 indicates a public school system