Skip to main content

Digital Literacy

This guide will help you to use information technologies and the Internet to find, evaluate, use, and share information in order to succeed academically and in your future career development.

Website evaluation criteria

Information found online varies in quality and reliability. Along with trustworthy information you may encounter inaccurate or outdated information,spoofs, and deliberate misinformation.
Use the CRAAP Criteria to help you determine if the quality of the source.

CURRENCY
  • When was the information published?
  • Is the information up-to-date, current, or does it never go out-of-date?
  • Check the top or bottom of the page. When a date is not obvious, navigate back to a web site's main page.
 Please note the following: 
  • Different parts of the same site could have been published at different times.
  • The date may indicate when the content was created or last updated.
  • Information published on the Web may change or disappear quickly. This is why it is important to document the date you accessed a Web source.
RELEVANCY
  • Does the information relate to your topic and/or answer some aspect of your research question?
  • Is the coverage appropriate for the topic, too broad or too specific?
  • Skim sections labeled "introduction," "overview," "summary," etc. If there are none, look for the link labeled "About this site" or similar.
  • If a site search, site map or index is available, look for your keywords.
ACCURACY
  • Can the information be verified?
  • Look at the organization of material, consider the use of language (vocabulary, grammar, typos) and additional ways of presenting information (images, media, graphs, etc).
  • See how the facts and evidence compare to those from other sources.
  • Make sure the author documents sources.
  • See if the sources and facts used reflect just one viewpoint or a variety of perspectives.
AUTHORITY
  • What do you know about the author(s) of the information?  What's their background, education and/or training?

On a web page the most common place to find the author's name is at top or bottom of the page. Here are some strategies for determining the author's credentials:

  • Examine the source for information about the author.
  • Search the web and/or databases  for the author's home page and works.
  • Use databases that track citations to find articles citing your author (look for "Cited by...," "Cited references")
POINT OF VIEW & PURPOSE
  • Is the information objective or does it appeal to emotions and/or biases?
  • Is the information presented as facts or opinions?
  • Why was the information created?  To inform, entertain, persuade?
  • Skim the foreword, preface, abstract and/or introduction of the work.
  • Skim the author's conclusions.
  • Examine the source for
    • inflammatory language
    • images or graphic styles (e.g., text in color or boldface type) to persuade you of the author's point of view
    • author's arguments or supporting facts
    • a bibliography that does or does not include multiple points of view.
  • Verify facts and statistics with a reliable source.
  • Examine cited sources for authority and objectivity.

 

Evaluating information found on the public Web presents special challenges. You may want to consider the purpose of the site and to think critically as to why the organization sponsoring the site is providing the information.

.co and .com.co websites are often associated with spreading false news and entertainment stories.

Commercial (.com) sites are often designed to sell products and services. Some sites may only provide information that puts their goods or services in the best light.

Educational institution (.edu) sites can be excellent sources of information on a wide variety of topics. Many universities host research centers that publish information and reports via the university web site.
Please note that educational institutions often host personal pages by faculty or students, which may be of varying quality and reliability and not reflect the standards or viewpoints of the hosting institution. Please make sure to evaluate authority!

Government (.gov) are used by various government agencies to distribute a wide variety of information. Use them to find facts, statistics, and other information.

News sites are generally reliable in terms of providing the facts relating to a news story. However, the editorial content relating to why an incident occurred or what should happen next can vary depending upon the views of the ownership, editors, etc. and can be biased accordingly. Some news sites make efforts to provide balanced editorial commentary.

Organizations (their URLs usually end it with .org) provide information about subjects and issues that are important to and relate to the organization both for its members (this information may be available only by subscription) and the public.
Please note that the information may be biased according to the views and beliefs of members of the organization and/or values of the profession or group.

Advocacy (.org) sites are similar to organization sites, but their main purpose is to educate the public on what are usually very specific issues. The organization advocating for a specific cause and they will likely only provide information that encourages you to take their side of the issue. For a balanced view, you should try to locate an advocacy site on the other side of the issue.

Visual Guide: Website Credibility

Go to this guide from EasyBib to see where you can find information for determining the reliability of a website.

Urban legends and hoaxes

News/fake news

Use the CRAAP criteria to analyze news sources.

How to Spot Fake News

This inforgraphic is created by IFLA (international Federation of Library Associations). It is based on FactCheck.org’s 2016 article How to Spot Fake News.

Fact-checking and fake news debunking sites

Reputable fact-checking organizations focused on U.S. national news:

Fake or predatory journals

The past few years have seen a rise in the number of predatory journals. These journals invite faculty and researchers to publish and often accept articles without reading them. They charge publication fees without providing any editorial or publishing services.
Publishing an article in a predatory journal may damage your reputation.

To learn more about recognizing and avoiding predatory journals, please refer to the excellent guide Scholarly Publishing: Predatory Publishing from Himmelfarb Library:

Notice of Non-Discrimination | Copyright Information © 2015 University of Cincinnati