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Undergraduate Student Support: Evaluation of Information

This library guide strives to provide e-support for undergraduate students at the NWU.

Steps to Follow when Evaluating an Internet Source

There are many ways to find information, but it is often difficult to judge which sources might be appropriate for your assignment. The answer is CRAAP

Currency: The timeliness of the information. 

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated? 
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • 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 citing this source in your research paper? 
  • Is it scholarly information? 

Authority: The source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic? 
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address? 
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net 

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 unbiased and free of emotion? 
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists

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

Not sure whether it is a scholarly article?  Look out for the following criteria:

  • Does the periodical title focus on a specific field or subject?
  • Can you find a clear list of author(s), their degrees, credentials, affiliations, titles etc.?
  • Has the article been cited in a subject specific online journal database?
  • Is the article longer than 4-5 pages and includes complex content?
  • Does the article contain technical language / specialised vocabulary?
  • Do you need prior subject knowledge to comprehend the content?
  • Does the article have a well defined and specialised title?
  • Does it contain tables and charts and a limited number of colour photographs?
  • Does it have a non-commercial, formal "look"or is there advertising included?
  • Can you find an indication of publication frequency?
  • Are you using data or information?  Information will be based on qualitative or quantitative observations, measurements, analysis, interpretations, conclusions, reference to other sources, opinions, authors, literature review etc.?
  • Have you checked if there are in-text and bibliographic citations and if they are reliable and true?
  • What about the way it was written?  Are there spelling errors, use of inappropriate or inflammatory language etc.
  • Do you feel comfortable staking your academic career on the content of the information?
  • Can you identify an abstract, introduction, problem statement, background and review of literature,  applicable research methods, discussion of findings, conclusion, footnotes and in-text citations and in-depth bibliography?
  • If an article, has it been sponsored by a renowned academic university department or professional and scholarly society or association?
  • Does it include original research by a credible author and prior knowledge of the subject or is it based on personal opinion?

Domain names

Look at the Web address (URL):

  • .gov = a site operated by a government body
  • .edu = a site operated by an educational institution
  • .org = a site operated by a non-profit organisation
  • .com = a commercial site
  • .net = network and computer sites
  • .ac = an academic (higher education) site