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Evaluating Sources of Information: Websites

Evaluating Online Sources

Evaluating Websites

  • Check the URL: is it an official site or a personal blog? what is the domain extension? (.com, .org,
  • Check the About Us / Author Credentials / Sponsoring Body /Contact information
  • Look for a date created or date revised
  • Are references included? Are they specific and accurate in supporting the claim?
  • Is it well-written and professional looking? Is it free from grammatical and spelling errors?
  • What other content is on the site: articles, advertisements?
  • Who links to the site? (Google search: link: web URL)
  • What is the purpose of the website?

Explore the other tabs in this box for more detailed CRAAP criteria for websites.


  • When was the page created? Look to the very bottom to find this information. It could be a timeframe (eg. 2010-2017), or a copyright date (eg. ©2016).
  • Has the information been updated since the original post?
  • Some websites will list a revision date, or let you know a revision is in progress.
  • Are the links still viable? Do they lead to current information?

 Usefulness: Is the information on the site useful to your current assignment?  Does it:

  • support or refute an argument
  • give examples (survey results, primary research, case studies)
  • provide "wrong" information that can be challenged in a productive way?

Coverage: Does the page cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?

Audience: Who is the intended audience of the webpage? Is the level appropriate for your needs?  

  • general readers,
  • students (elementary, high school, college, graduate),
  • specialists or professionals
  • researchers or scholars



Who is responsible for the page or article? Is the author an expert in this field? What else has he/she written or produced? Does the author provide an e-mail address?

Is a bias evident?  Is the author known to be affiliated with a political party or a political action group, lobbying association or a business?  Are they featured in the media discussing a particular issue?

On many websites, there is no individual author identified.  In these cases, the organization publishing the website is considered to be the author. 


What organization published the website?  Their logo and name may be in the header of the page, or down at the very bottom. Check the 'About Us' section and examine the web address and domain extension.

Is the organization known to be affiliated with a political party or a political action group, lobbying association or a business?  Are they featured in the media discussing a particular issue? Would the organization have an inherent bias on certain topics?

Sources: Are sources provided for the claims, statistics, and graphs? Can you distinguish between the facts being presented and the author’s opinion on them?

References: Are the links relevant and appropriate? Are the links evaluated and accurately represented?

Organization and Content: Is the page organized and focused? Is it well designed? Is the text well written? What types of ads and articles are on the site?

Illustrations: Are the graphics clear in intent, relevant and professional looking? Do the graphics add to or enhance the content?

Security: Are security and/or encryption systems employed when necessary?

 What is the primary reason that was the page created?   

  • To provide official information: laws & regulations, public services, educational institutions
  • Marketing for a business: to advertise / sell a product or service  
  • To influence views or promote a cause: political candidates or issues, beliefs or as satire
  • To provide up-to-the-moment news: current events, play-by-play sports, breaking news, live commentary
  • To entertain: games, humour, fandom, gossip, videos
  • To share information & network: hobbies, interests, fandom, advice,  personal pages

Is the site dependent on clicks or subscriptions for advertising revenue?

See ' Types of Websites' below.

Types of Websites


Name of government department prominently displayed

URL may have; or .ca; .gov.on; or .gov                                          


Citizen information

Plans, policies, laws

Statistics & research


Will not report negatively on itself, or include opposition views

May put positive spin on issues

Information may be reorganized, changed or removed when party in power changes

Icons are from the Noun Project: Information - gregor cresnar; Magnifying glass - MRFA; Caution - arjuazka 



Name of institution in URL

URL could end with .edu or .ca                                             



Program and course offerings, application & registration information

Policies, vision, mandate, annual reports

Faculty CVs and publication lists

Library sites will have many resources,
but some may require a login from that institution


Will not include negative or controversial information about the institution

May house ungraded student projects (slideshows, websites, etc)
which are not reliable sources


Name of business or product prominently displayed

Large businesses may have flashy graphics,
small businesses may use a free hosting service



Information on the product/service that they sell

History of the business and how it is run

Information for customers and business partners 

Vision statement, Annual Reports, Media Releases


Will not include negative or controversial information about the business,
product or service

Testimonials may not be genuine

May provide useful information, but is geared towards getting your business



May have straightforward name, or flashy name

Look for a subtitle that indicates the trade or industry


Current trends in the industry, major players

Upcoming conferences, events

Position papers, some research


May be biased against policies that are perceived to have an adverse effect on the industry

May only represent the dominant viewpoint 




May be affiliated with a known print newspaper, or TV / radio news station

Each article should have date of publication


Current events, popular issues

Established viewpoints on topics

Media treatment of issues


Look out for media bias. What is left unsaid?

Is this a source that tends to lean politically left or right?

What are the writer's credentials?

Are sources listed, or is the information pasted from another website?

More on News Media & Bias


Sites that invite users to update or share information

May have 'wiki' in the name or url

Look for user names on submitted content 


Opinions, commentary, news-sharing

Hobbies, DIY, fandom


The information offered may have no references and be unverifiable

Is there a moderator, terms of use, or behaviour guidelines on the site?

A forum could be dominated by a certain view (echo chamber)



May have a blogging url, or be hosted on a free site

May have been created just for fun, as an assignment, or as a way to learn how to build a website

May have an 'About Me' section with a short bio


Opinions, commentary, diaries

Hobbies, DIY, fandom


May not be updated regularly, may be incomplete

Content may have political or religious bias that is not immediately evident


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