When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it . . . but is it good and should you be relying on it as a legitimate source of information?
Luckily, there's a tool you can use that was developed by Sarah Blakeslee (California State University at Chico) to help you determine the trustworthiness of sources across all disciplines called the CRAAP Test. CRAAP is an acronym which stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose and is used to evaluate your sources. Essentially, the CRAAP Test involves applying a series of questions to help you evaluate the reliability of information you find.
Currency: the timeliness of the information
Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
Authority: the source of the information
Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
Purpose: the reason the information exists
.com = Commercial site.
The information provided by commercial interests is generally going to shed a positive light on the product it promotes. While this information might not necessarily be false, you might be getting only part of the picture. Remember, there's a monetary incentive behind every commercial site in providing you with information, whether it is for good public relations or to sell you a product outright.
.edu = Educational institution.
Sites using this domain name are schools ranging from kindergarten to higher education. If you take a look at your school's URL you'll notice that it ends with the domain .edu. Information from sites within this domain must be examined very carefully. If it is from a department or research center at an educational institution, it can generally be taken as credible. However, students' personal Web sites are not usually monitored by the school even though they are on the school's server and use the .edu domain.
.gov = Government.
If you come across a site with this domain, then you're viewing a federal government site. All branches of the United States federal government use this domain. Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings would be included in sites with this domain. The information is considered to be from a credible source.
.org = Traditionally a non-profit organization.
Organizations such as the American Red Cross or PBS (Public Broadcasting System) use this domain suffix. Generally, the information in these types of sites is credible and unbiased, but there are examples of organizations that strongly advocate specific points of view over others, such as the National Right to Life Committee and Planned Parenthood. You want to give this domain scrutiny. Some commercial interests might be the ultimate sponsors of a site with this suffix. (See the Information, Disinformation, Misinformation page)
.mil = Military.
This domain suffix is used by the various branches of the Armed Forces of the United States.
.net = Network.
You might find any kind of site under this domain suffix. It acts as a catch-all for sites that don't fit into any of the preceding domain suffixes. Information from these sites should be given careful scrutiny.