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Student Success in Online Learning

Tips and techniques to support student learning and success in the online environment

How to Evaluate Online Sources

In the world of online research, it has become crucial to develop the skill of evaluating sources. Evaluating electronic sources can be challenging, given the fact that anyone can publish material online. 

How do you determine if a source is credible? You can evaluate the reliability and scholarship of information you find both online and in print by using these guidelines:

  • Authorship
    If the author is not identified be wary. When an article or website is authored anonymously it has little credibility. It should be evident who created the content. What are the author's credentials? Does he/she have expertise in this field? Is biographical information provided?
  • Publisher
    This can help you determine the origin of the document, for example whether it is produced by an established publisher, a government agency, a nonprofit organization, or a commercial website. Consider the publisher's reputation and trustworthiness.
  • Accuracy and objectivity
    Can the facts presented on a website be substantiated elsewhere? Beware of information that can't be confirmed or that presents a biased view. Always check multiple sources to determine credibility.
  • Timeliness
    Be aware of when the web page was created and how recently it's been updated. Is the information current? Outdated information and broken links indicate the page is not being maintained.
  • Footnotes and bibliographies
    Legitimate references and links to other sources can add to a document's credibility and depth of scholarship.
  • Sponsorship
    Some sites are officially approved by the parent organization to which they're linked. Others can be on a parent site but not officially sponsored by the organization. A personal homepage on a university's server does not automatically confer credibility.

Before going online to do your research, remember that content in the virtual library has already been vetted and will always be credible and available to you free of charge. The Virtual Librarians recommend starting your research in the library.

The CRAAP Test

A well-established test developed by librarians at CSU Chico. 
Currency
  • The timeliness (publication date, revision history) of the information.
  • Broken links or an old publication date indicates the page has not been updated recently.

Relevance

  • The importance of the information for your needs.
  • Consider your audience and compare with a variety of sources.

Authority

  • The source (author, publisher, sponsor) of the information.
  • Check for contact information and the credentials of the author.

Accuracy

  • The reliability (source, evidence, truthfulness) of the information.
  • Think about the source and look for evidence of bias or error.

Purpose

  • The reason (teach, sell, entertain) the information exists.
  • Identify the type of information (fact or opinion) and the intent of the author.

 


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