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The Hulbert Taft, Jr. Library


How Do I?: Find and Evaluate Websites

Finding Reliable Websites

SEARCH ENGINES

What are they? Computer programs that search documents for a specified word or words and provide a list of documents in which they are found. Google, Bing and Yahoo! Search are among the most popular. See leading technology information and advice website Lifewire's The Best Search Engines of 2020 for more.

Search Tip

Limit your search to domains that are considered to be more reliable by combining your search term(s) with the phrase site:gov OR site:edu which will limit your results to the domain .gov (websites originating from the U.S. government) and the domain .edu for educational institutions in the U.S. Note: be aware that universities may allow their students to use their edu domain. If there is a tilde (~) in the address, it may be a personal student page which is not monitored by the institution.

SUBJECT DIRECTORIES

What are they? Also known as web directories, these lead users to websites selected and reviewed by scholars, librarians, and teachers, and organized by subjects.

  • SweetSearch A search engine for students that emphasizes high quality resources evaluated and approved by educators, librarians and research experts. From DulcineaMedia.com.
  • Britannica Academic On your topic article page, find Web's Best Sites in the left sidebar to display sites selected by Britannica editors for quality and age-appropriateness
  • For more information and a list of web directories, see Lifewire's What is a Web Directory?

MORE PLACES TO FIND RELIABLE WEBSITES

  • Search the Invisible Web: 20 Free Resources Typical search engines actually access only a tiny fraction of the internet, so where's the rest? This guide from Lifewire, a leading technology information and advice website, shows you where to look. Click here for more information about the invisible web.
  • Google Scholar Search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

A word about Wikipedia

Wikipedia's general disclaimer: "Wikipedia cannot guarantee the validity of the information found here. The content of any given article may recently have been changed, vandalized or altered by someone whose opinion does not correspond with the state of knowledge in the relevant fields."

Use the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Websites

CRAAP = Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?   

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    •  examples:
      • .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government)
      • .org (nonprofit organization), or
      • .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

The CRAAP Test was developed by Sarah Blakeslee and her colleagues at Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.