You can check our other subject guides on evaluating information sources generally, including evaluation methods such as the CRAAP Test, but did you know that we can extend those methods to better address online resources?
The CRAAP Test is one of several information evaluation methods that evaluates the credibility of a source by looking at characteristics like Relevancy; Verifiability; Authority; Date; Rationale; Objectivity, and Coverage. I've included the graphic below, if you'd like a refresher on what each letter stands for.
We can extend this method to address online sources of information simply by understanding what each characteristics looks like on a web page! For example, Currency still refers to the date of the information; can you determine when the information was posted or updated on the website? You can't use the copyright date of the site for this facet, since those often update without content changing. Because they also understand (and use!) this standard for evaluating information, reputable sites with credible information often indicate a date when the content was last posted or updated.
Let's look at the entire mnemonic and see how each facet applies to online information. The questions on the form still apply, but you may need to search the site, or even refer to other sites, for answers!
C - Currency
Look for a date when the information content of the page was posted or updated and think about whether the date of the information is appropriate to your research needs. Check out the bottom of this page for an example of what this might look like!
R - Relevancy
In addition to the questions on the graphic, consider whether the site covers all aspects of the issue and at what depth. While you can get credible information from an imbalanced site, you won't get the whole picture unless you use additional sources of information.
A - Authority
Remember that anyone can publish information on the web and be particularly assiduous with this facet of evaluation! Can you determine who is responsible for the information and for the web site? Note that you can find credible information on sites sites with group authors (e.g. .gov, .edu, or .org) as long as the organization itself is a reputable source.
A - Accuracy
You are still looking to see if the author of the site provides a source for their information that you could use in turn to independently verify the data. Since many websites use links instead of reference lists, check to see whether those links are broken and where they point; credible sites use information from credible sites, so evaluate the sources of that information, too. Also be on the lookout for proper spelling, grammar, professional language, etc., that indicate the site is well written and properly maintained.
P - Purpose
Finally, the issue of why the site exists is especially important for online information, as it is so easy to publish and to disguise one's intent to persuade or sell an agenda with a polished page using certain language. Does the author have a known bias or affiliation with an advocacy group? Is it a company that might benefit from one-sided information? Note that the creator's purpose doesn't mean the information is wrong, just be aware of how their perspective influences the site's content.
The SIFT Method dives deeper into online information evaluation, going beyond website characteristics and incorporating lateral research. This more stringent method can be applied to social media and other contexts in which the origin of the shared information is obscure. This video tells you more about the method:
If you're interested in learning more about the SIFT Method, including the tools available to operationalize the lateral research to find better coverage and to trace the source of the information, check out this site by the creator of the method and this course they put together to help others learn the methodology.