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BRB English Resources: Evaluating Sources

This is a guide of resources to support English, literature, and composition courses at UW-Baraboo/Sauk County.

Why do I need to evaluate sources?

Remember, the stronger your sources are, the stronger your papers and assignments will be.  It's important to use credible sources in your research to back up your ideas and arguments and to show your credibility as a researcher and writer. Although many sources, including websites, may seem credible, sometimes it can be difficult to tell.  Use the hints below to determine if the information is credible or not.


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  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?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, and

  • 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?

Note: the CRAAP test was developed by librarians at CSU Chico

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Source: NCSU Libraries

More on Evaluating Websites

  • Content: Are there lots of advertisements? Is the website trying to sell you something? If the site contains lots of advertisements that have nothing to do with the content, this is usually a red flag.
  • Authority: Can you tell who created and maintains the site? Anyone can publish to the web. If you can’t tell what person or group created the site, that’s a bad sign.  If you can, take note of any potential bias the creator might have (ex. The Sierra Club site would be pro-environment).
  • Purpose: Is the website intended to inform? Persuade? Entertain? Sell something? Is the site biased?
  • Currency/Dates: Can you tell when the site was updated last, and if it is being maintained regularly? If there are charts and graphs, can you tell when that content is from? Beware out of date content; abandoned web pages are common!
  • Validity/Reliability/Sources: If claims of fact are made, is there any documentation to support these claims? (ex. a list of the sources used, references to studies cited, etc.) Are there obvious errors on the site?
  • Navigation: Is the site well designed and easy to use? Are the links broken?
  • Domain: What is the domain? Noting the domain gives clues to the probable content of the website. However, you still need to evaluate the information no matter what the domain is (even .edu and .gov sites).
    • .com (commercial)    
    • .edu (education)     
    • .mil (military)       
    • .gov (government)  
    • .org (organization)  
    • .biz (business)