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The Research Process

How to evaluate information sources

An important part of library research is learning how to think critically about the information you find. Asking certain questions about books, articles, websites, or other information sources can help you to determine whether the source is appropriate for your research needs.

We recommend you use the CRAAP Test to evaluate information. 

The URL of a website can also give you valuable clues as to whether it contains information that you should use in your assignment.

The CRAAP Test

Any time you search online - whether you're working on your CNA-Q assignments, or doing research for personal reasons - you are likely to find A LOT of information. But how do you know whether that information is trustworthy or reliable? Using the CRAAP test can help. Assessing sources based on five criteria - CURRENCY, RELEVANCE, AUTHORITY, ACCURACY, & PURPOSE - will help you to decide whether you should use a source, or not.

Books and articles that you get from the library are usually reliable and credible because someone or some group has checked the facts and information that they contain, before they were published. Even then, you should still think about whether or not this information is current and relevant to your research question.

 

URLs

When you are evaluating websites, you can learn a lot just by looking at the URL.

The URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is the unique website address that you type in, or click on, to get to a web page, and it can give you clues about the creator, purpose, audience, and even the country in which the website was created. Much of this information is found in the domain suffix - the ".com" part at the end of the website address.

Here are some common domain suffixes and what they mean.

.com Commercial site. This usually means the website owner is trying to sell you something. Even if there are no products directly for sale, the information on the site has been created to promote the goods or services offered by the website creator. The information might not necessarily be untrue, but it is almost certainly biased (one-sided, offering only one viewpoint). You should take this into consideration before using .com sites in your research.
.edu Educational institution. Schools from Kindergarten to University use the .edu domain suffix. There can be very reputable information here, but you should still evaluate .edu sites using other CRAAP test criteria, as they may include pages created by students. This does not mean student pages contain false information, but the student may not be an expert in the field and may lack Authority.
.gov Government website. Most governments, worldwide, use the .gov domain suffix, often in combination with a country suffix. Qatari government websites, for example, use .gov.qa. Government websites can generally be considered reputable, but it is important to  remember that the information contained in them reflects the policies of the government of the moment. 
.org Organization.This domain suffix is generally used for non-profit organizations, but it is really important to remember that some of these organizations represent really strong opinions or biases. Sometimes organizations are sponsored by commercial sites, who have something to sell. Be sure to evaluate .org sites using the CRAAP test.
.net Network. You might find any kind of site with this domain suffix. They should be carefully evaluated using the CRAAP test.

 

 Click here for a longer list of internet domain suffixes.