Evaluating the quality of online information

This resource will explain why you should evaluate online sources, and a strategy to do so.

Evaluating online sources

What are online sources?

The term 'online sources' refers to any materials you find online.

An online source could be a blog post, a newspaper article published online, a journal article you have read online or an online video

Why should you evaluate online sources?

The Internet is a valuable source of information, which can be added to or accessed by people across the globe.

While this means that we have free access to a diverse range of sources, it also means that the information published may not always be credible or accurate, as anyone could have written it.

When searching for sources to use in your assessments, you may come across materials that seem suitable. However, you should never take an online source, or an offline one, at face value.

You should always critically evaluate a source to test its credibility and accuracy before using it an assessment to ensure you are supporting your arguments with correct and credible information.

How can I evaluate online (and offline) sources?

A well-known strategy for testing the quality of sources is the CRAAP test. The test focuses on five key aspects that can indicate the quality of a source and includes questions to ask of a source to evaluate its quality.

CRAAP test

Currency

The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published?
  • Has there been any updates or revision to the information?
  • Are the sources used by the author current or outdated?
  • Is the information out-of-date for the topic?

Relevancy

The importance of the information to your context.

  • Does the information answer your question?
  • Is the information related to your topic?
  • Have you looked for other sources before settling on this one?
  • Is the information appropriate to your level of study? Is it too simple or too sophisticated?

Authority

The source of the information.

  • Who is the author?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Has the material been peer-reviewed or reviewed by editors?
  • Has the author been cited elsewhere?

Accuracy

The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.

  • What types of other sources have been cited?
  • Does the information line up with your own knowledge on the topic?
  • Are there any spelling or grammar errors in the text?

Purpose

The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform or persuade?
  • Is the author clear what their intentions are?
  • What biases might the author have?

Watch this video from Georgian College Library to learn more about evaluating online resources then test your understanding of the CRAAP test.

Fake news

Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word. — Drobnic Holan 2016

Optional activity

The Bad News game helps you build a pretend fake news profile while growing a pretend follower account and monitoring a credibility meter.

Play the optional Bad News game, or read about how the game helps you learn about fake news.

Keep yourself safe online

And finally, remember, it is important to keep yourself safe online.

To see whether a website is safe to visit, you can check for security info about the site. Check to the left of the web address for the security status:

If you see a lock icon next to a website's address it means the traffic to and from the website is encrypted. It is also verified, which means the company running the site has a certificate proving they own it. Selecting the lock icon, you can see more information about the site, such as who owns it and who verified it.

If you don't see a lock icon, your connect isn't private and any traffic could be intercepted. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have developed a number of free tools for your browser, to help protect you while you're online, including:

For more information on how to stay safe and protect yourself online, visit the UOW Cyber Security team site.

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.