chat loading...
Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Communications: Evaluate Sources

This course provides an overview of the basic concepts of communication and the skills necessary to communicate in various contexts. Emphasis is placed on communication theories and techniques used in interpersonal group, public, intercultural, and mass c

Introduction

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.

cartoon man holding magnifying glass to his eye

Know Your Sources

Accuracy

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. 

  • Does the author provide a source for the statistics or quotes used in an article?
  • Is the information utilized referred to specifically or in a vague manner?

Currency

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.

  • Will dated information still be relevant to your research project or do you require more up-to-date information?
  • What are the dates of publication or production for various content on the website?
  • Can you determine if the website has been updated recently?

Coverage (Choosing the Best Sources)

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.

  • Does the source provide one or many points of view? 
  • Does the information presented possess the proper depth needed for your research question?
  • Does the resource add new information or does it simply compile information found elsewhere?
  • Would those original sources be more appropriate for use in your research? 

cartoon of person looking through one set of lenses on a set of glasses which contains five sets of lenses in total

Use the CRAP Test

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.

 

 

  • CURRENCY How recently was this information published/posted? Can you find a publication date?
  • RELIABILITYIs the information supported by evidence? Can it be confirmed by other sources?
  • AUTHORITYWho wrote the information - are they an expert or knowledgeable in their field? (i.e. For health information, did a doctor or nurse write it?)
  • PURPOSE / POINT OF VIEWWhy was it written? To sell something? To sway opinion? Is it biased toward a particular point of view?

Question Authority

question authority written in bold white letters with black background

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.

  • Is the author's contact information listed? If not, or if written anonymously, there is no one to hold accountable for the information provided.
  • What is the author's credentials? If not provided, be skeptical of their credibility.
  • What is the author or organization's area of expertise? Are they an authority on the topic being discussed?
  • Is the author affiliated with an accredited educational or respected research institution?

This article from online magazine Wonkette also provides an informative bio regarding the author:

https://www.wonkette.com/maddow-hillary-interview

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

Media Bias Chart

media bias chart