Since anyone can publish anything on the Web, information on the Web needs to be evaluated, especially if it is to be used for an academic research paper. The following criteria should be used to evaluate Web information:
- Currency: Look for a publication date (usually in the footer) or date of last revision on the page and decide if the information is recent enough to use. As a general rule, try to avoid anything older than five years.
- Relevance: Is the information relevant to your topic and is it the TYPE of information needed? (background, commentary, opinion, statistics, etc.)
- Authority: Establish who is responsible for the information and who is putting the information on the Web? In many cases, it is an organization that is sponsoring the Web site. Sometimes it is a person, whose name appears on the page. Find out as much as you can about the author and/or sponsor to determine if they are qualified, that is, are they an expert on or at least knowledgable about the topic. Do they have academic credentials?
- Accuracy: Establish if the information is accurate and true. Are there other sources that can verify the information? Of course, the authority of the author also helps establish how much you can rely on the information to be accurate.
- Purpose: Why is the information on the Web? Is it an attempt to inform or educate? Be careful if the purpose is to sell or promote something. Is the point of view balanced or biased? If the purpose is to persuade, then is the argument logical and backed up with accurate facts?
The evaluation criteria initials spell CRAAP, which is what they help you avoid if you use them! Memorize the criteria and use them to evaluate Web sources.