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Communications & Writing Research Guide

This guide is intended to help students in all levels of writing and communications classes - whether you are new to doing research at Bentley or need a refresher!

Evaluating Information

Evaluating Information (Watch Time: 2 minutes 37 seconds)

In this tutorial we will discuss evaluating sources. Evaluating resources is an essential part of the research process. The strength and credibility of your work will rely on the quality of the sources that you use to support your arguments.

Be Inquisitive

Ask yourself these questions when looking at information:

  • WHO is the author or publisher of this information? What background, expertise, or credentials help to prove the quality and trustworthiness of the source?
  • WHAT type of publication does the information come from (i.e. book, journal, peer reviewed journal, magazine, website, etc.) and is it appropriate for the research?
  • WHEN was the information published? Is the information current enough for your topic?
  • WHERE did the information in the publication come from? Are there references provided? Does it seem accurate or can it be checked elsewhere?
  • WHY was this information published? Is it is meant to inform or persuade? Is there bias or does the information seem to be as objective as possible?
  • HOW will this information be helpful to your research? How is it relevant to your question or topic?

There are many different evaluation "tests" that can be used but the CRAAP Test from the California State University, Chico library provides a handy mnemonic and guide with questions to keep in mind while evaluating.

Evaluating Websites

The following can be used as a general guideline for evaluating information found on the web. When in doubt, speak to your professor or ask a reference librarian for assistance.

Additional tips for determining source reliability are available on our Evaluating News page and Evaluating Sources page.


  • What is the purpose of the web site?  Why is this information being provided? Is it:
    • scholarly research?
    • general educational or factual information?
    • an editorial or persuasive argument?
    • a sales pitch?
    • an advertisement?
    • entertainment?
    • misinformation?
    • a hoax?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the publisher of the site likely to have any particular agenda (e.g. political, ideological, commercial)?
  • Does the author appear to have a particular bias?


  • does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • is the information at an appropriate level for your needs (not too elementary or advanced)?
  • would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?


  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by facts or evidence? Is it refereed or peer-reviewed?
  • If this is a research document, is there an explanation of the research method(s) used?
  • Are sources cited? Is there a bibliography?
  • When statistics and other types of factual data are presented are they cited so that they may be verified?
  • Is the document generally well-written?  Free of spelling mistakes?  Free of typographical errors?


  • Is currency important to the type of information being presented? (For some types of information or topics, currency may not be important).
  • Are any of the following dates provided?
    • creation date
    • post date
    • revision date
  • In cases where there is statistical data or factual data is it indicated when that data was gathered?
  • Does the information seem to be out-of-date and therefore irrelevant and/or unreliable?
  • Do the links provided on the site work (i.e. do they get you where you need to go)?

 Compare, Contrast, Confirm

  • How does the information presented on the web site compare to information you have gathered elsewhere - including other web sites, books, journal articles, interviews, etc.?
  • Do the theories or information presented agree or disagree with established scholarship or widely held points of view?
  • Can data and pieces of factual information be confirmed using other sources?

Web Domains

The domain of a website gives important clues to its credibility. You can find the domain name, sometimes called the domain suffix, in the URL of the website – it’s the .com in, and the .edu in Domain names follow patterns established by domain name registering agencies, and you can use those patterns to discern clues about the purpose and geographic origin of a website.

Some domains are better sources for credible information. For example, websites containing .edu or .gov originate from accredited postsecondary educational institutions or US government offices. As such, they are usually more credible than .com or .cc websites that may have a commercial focus.

A confusing domain is .org. This domain is available to non-profit and for-profit organizations. While non-profit implies the organization does not have a commercial interest, it still could have biased or inaccurate information to further their agenda.

In general, here are some domain guidelines you can use when viewing a website: