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Elections, Voting and Campaigns: Website Evaluation

What's wrong with this website?

Go to the following website:
What's wrong with this website? 
How can you tell?

Domain Names

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. 

Why evaluate websites?

When searching for information on the "free web", you need to be critical.  Here are a few reasons:

  • On the "free web", anyone can post information, which can be unreliable and inaccurate
  • The amount of information online can be overwhelming; there are currently more than 357 million websites in existence
  • When searching the web, you get A LOT of results, many of which may not be relevant
  • Many websites may have an agenda, or may be trying to sell you something
  • Search results bring varying results, only some of which may be relevant for your research
  • Scholarly sources are usually not available on the "free web." They are located primarily in library databases

    The CRAAP Test: Guidelines for Evaluating Websites

    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.  Download a CRAAP test worksheet.

    : 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.

    Scholarly vs Non-Scholarly Resources

    Your instructor may ask you to use only scholarly resources for your paper.  What's the difference between a scholarly or non-scholarly resource?

    Scholarly (peer-reviewed) sources include encyclopedias, books, and articles published in scholarly journals.  These sources are reviewed by a panel of experts in that particular field, and are often published by a professional association or a university press.  These experts ensure the information published is credible before accepting it for publication.

    More information:

    Non-Scholarly sources include websites, magazines, newspapers, and books that undergo no expert review prior to publishing.

      Check with your instructor if you plan to use non-scholarly sources and use the CRAAP test to evaluate them.

      What are Peer-Reviewed Articles?

      Does your instructor require you to use scholarly, or peer-reviewed articles?  Watch the video below from Vanderbuilt University to find out what peer-reviewed articles are.

      What about Wikipedia?

      Wikipedia is a free, online encyclopedia that contains articles about nearly any topic.  It may be tempting to use it as a resource for an assignment, but keep in mind that most instructors WILL NOT accept wikipedia as an acceptable source.  Why?  Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone that has access to a computer and creates a wikipedia account.  This often compromises the quality of information that may appear in Wikipedia entries. The last thing you want to do is to use false information in your assignments.

      So what do you do?  Use Wikipedia as a starting point for your research, but, if you want to use information from it, try to verify it in another reputable source instead.

      See the video below for more about Wikipedia: