Conversing with someone else about your research and writing process can be incredibly helpful. Contact staff at McKillop Library or the Writing Center using the links below.
Because of the wide variety of information sources available to you, it's often difficult to tell whether the information you are accessing is reliable or useful for your research needs. Many people experience information overload when they are required to sift through a large amount of information to determine what is the most reliable and relevant.
Librarians and other experts pre-select materials available from the library. However, anyone can write and publish information; books are often self-published, newspapers publish opinions, magazines may reflect bias, or an interview you watch may not be from the most knowledgeable person on a subject. Websites in particular can be tricky to assess. The ease of posting material online makes it easier to find information, but not so easy to evaluate it.
How are you supposed to find the trustworthy sources when you can't automatically accept the information you are retrieving as credible, accurate, or unbiased? While you may not be a subject expert in the area you are researching, there are a number of basic things to look for that can help you evaluate the credibility of your information sources. After finding a source that is relevant to your topic, it's time to begin your detective work. The resources on this page will help you as you begin to evaluate your sources.
There are many tools and methods designed to help information users remember what criteria can be used to evaluate sources. One of these, the CRAAP test, provides you with five evaluative criteria that you can use when faced with a piece of information. Ask yourself the questions that align with each criterion as you begin to find and use information for your research project.
While the CRAAP criteria can help you evaluate information you've found online, websites have an additional characteristic to assist you in the evaluation process: domains. The domain of a website gives important clues to its credibility. You can find the domain name, sometimes called the domain suffix, in the URL of the website – it’s the .com in amazon.com, and the .edu in salve.edu. Domain names follow patterns established by domain name registering agencies, and you can use those patterns to discern clues about the purpose and geographic origin of a website.
Some domains are better sources for credible information. For example, websites containing .edu or .gov originate from accredited postsecondary educational institutions or US government offices. As such, they are usually more credible than .com or .cc websites that may have a commercial focus.
A confusing domain is .org. This domain is available to non-profit and for-profit organizations. While non-profit implies the organization does not have a commercial interest, it still could have biased or inaccurate information to further their agenda.
Here are some general domain guidelines you can use in conjunction with other CRAAP criteria to evaluate a given website:
|? .org||? .com||? .cc||? .co|
|? .net||? .ca||? .us||? .biz|
Remember, you should never rely only on a domain name to evaluate a source. Below is Indiana University East Campus Library's sample evaluation of a website that claimed the earth is hollow.
Indiana University East Campus Library. (2017). Let's check a claim. Retrieved from https://iue.libguides.com/fakenews/claim