The ability to evaluate the information you find is a key critical thinking skill. This guide introduces specific criteria that you can use to go beyond a gut feeling that a website or article is "good" or "bad." It is necessary to evaluate the information we find on the Web because:
Use the ABCD method below to help you evaluate resources.
Who is the author? (individual or organization)
What expertise do they have?
Extensive education, advanced degrees in the subject
Extensive work experience in the subject
Specific life experience that can provide a testimony or expert opinion
Google the author or organization. What else can you learn about their qualifications or biases?
Are there political, cultural, religious, etc. biases?
Exaggerations, overgeneralizations, stereotypes, emotionally charged language, misleading or omitted details. are signs the information may be biased.
Is the info fact, opinion, or propaganda?
Facts are provable.
Opinions should be backed up with evidence and should not be one sided. Opinions should come from experts on the topic.
What is the purpose of the website?
To inform? To sell? To entertain?
Where does the author get their information from?
Are there footnotes, a list of references, or works cited?
Are the cited sources also from unbiased, authoritative sources?
What is the domain ending of the URL? Here are some common domain endings and what they mean.
.com=commercial site (anyone can purchase and publish a website with a .com domain.
Usually these sites are selling a product (or an idea) or serve as someone's personal website
Be sure the information is not just endorsing the product or idea being sold, or supporting the owner's personal viewpoint.
.edu= education institution like a U.S. college or university
Only U.S. institutions of higher learning can publish websites using this domain. Be cautious of student work which may be published on these websites.
Example of a credible .edu site: https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/
.gov= U.S. government site
Only U.S. government agencies and organizations can publish a website with this domain.
Example of a government site: www.cdc.gov
.org=used by organizations, but any group or person can purchase and publish a website with this domain.
We often associate .org websites with non-profit organizations, however anyone can purchase and publish a .org domain name.
Many non-profit organizations have biases or agendas and they may present information in a way that supports their particular viewpoint even if that information isn't entirely accurate.
Bottom line: DO NOT assume a website is credible just because it comes from a .org site.
What do other sources say about this same topic?
Google the topic and compare several sources
When was the information published or posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Does your topic require very recent information? Do you need historical information?
E is for Evaluation
Use the ABCD evaluation worksheet to evaluate a website. Based on your evaluation do you think the site is a credible source?
This video will show you how to evaluate a website, and how to avoid websites that just "look" credible.