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Pro Tips on Evaluating Web Sources
Check out this article, "In the context of web context: How to check out any Web page," by Scott Rosenberg, a professional web journalist and developer.
Rosenberg kinda knows what he's talking about. He co-founded Salon (the news, culture, politics, and finance magazine) was the founder of MediaBugs.org (a site that allows people to report and correct errors in news coverage), was the editor of a non-profit green news website, and now contributes to the tech news and discussion site Backchannel.
The CRAAP Test
Is your source CRAAP? Some questions to ask...
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
- Does this source reflect the current thinking about or perception of this topic?
- When was the information published (book, article, or report), posted, or created (website, video, podcast, image)?
- Has the information been revised or updated recently?
- Are the links functional?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
- How does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
- Who is the intended audience? For example, is it written for experts in this general field or subject or is it written for general readers?
- Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
- How does this source compare to the other sources you have found? Does it offer anything different? Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
- What kind of documentation is this? Primary or secondary source? Factual/descriptive or analytic/synthetic? Does it do what I need it to do? What kind of information do I need to complete the task?
Authority: The source of the information.
Who is the author/publisher/creator/sponsor?
- If there is a person (or persons) as author or creator, are they an expert on this topic? Click on the author’s name or google them. Also look for other authors or creators who have written, commented on, or addressed the same topic.
- If there is an organization or company as the author or creator, does that organization or company have any background or relation to the information presented? Look for an “About Us”, “Who We Are”, or other pages to find out.
- For websites, does the URL reveal anything about the authors/sponsors/creators of source? For example, it is a .edu (educational), or .gov (U.S. government) page or publication?
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.
- Is the information supported by evidence, citations, references, or links/ hyperlinks?
- Has the information been reviewed or refereed? For example, a scholarly journal has a peer-review process before they publish and article. A book has an editor that checks the information they are publishing.
- Do the other sources you’ve found support the information presented or provide alternative views of the topic?
- Do the authors/sponsors/creators raise and address objections to their position?
- Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
- What is the purpose of the information? To inform or teach? To sell? To entertain? To persuade?
- What is the tone of the source? What kind of language or images is the author or creator using? Emotional? Angry? Calm?
- Do the authors/sponsors/creators make their intentions or purpose clear? For a book or article, skim the Description or Abstract. For a website, look for an “About Us” type of link.
- Do the authors/sponsors/creators or publisher identify this information as opinion or editorial?
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