Many credible sources can be found in the Library's catalog and databases, but how can you determine if the source is useful to your research? How can you determine if a web resource is credible? Before using information found on a website or through the Library for your research project, consider the following criteria to evaluate its credibility and or applicability:
Accuracy, Authority, Objectivity, and Currency
If these criteria are present then you may have a high quality source that could be of value to your research. If they are not present, be wary of utilizing this source for your research.
Accuracy refers to a source's reliability. Information such as statistics and quotes provided in a source need to be verifiable so that the reader can confirm both that the information is accurate and that the author's conclusion is reasonable. Below are some questions to ask when determining the level of a source's accuracy.
Currency refers to the timeliness of the information presented by an author. Below are some questions to ask when determining the level of a source's currency.
Coverage refers to the level of substance and perspective found in a source's content. Make sure the source discusses your topic with the depth appropriate for your research. Find sources which discuss multiple perspectives or find multiple sources with contrasting points of view to ensure ample coverage on your topic.
It is challenging to determine whether information from the Web is credible and can be trusted. Is it factual? Biased? Relevant to your topic?
Here is a handy acronym to help you determine if a source may be CRAP.
Authority refers to the credibility of the author or institution of the source. If you want to use a source for your research, make sure the authority of that source is reliable and trustworthy. Below are some questions to ask when determining the level of a source's authority.
This article from online magazine Wonkette also provides an informative bio regarding the author:
Another way to help you evaluate your website is to determine the type of website you have found. Look at the URL. What does it say?
.com = commercial site
.edu = educational site
.gov = U.S. government site
.org = non-profit organization site (usually, but not always)
.mil = U.S. military sites and agencies
.net = networks/Internet Service Providers