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Counseling: Homework

Homework Assignment

You probably already have a copy of this assignment in your Counseling workbook. If you'd like an extra copy, you can download it here.

Google like a Pro

What's on this Page? Support for your Library Homework Assignment

Most of the sources traditionally used for college-level research (such as books, newspapers articles, magazine articles, and scholarly journal articles) go through an editorial process before they are published, which may include fact-checking, review of grammar and spelling, comments from an editor, or vetting by experts in the field.

For websites, we don't always know how much things have been checked before they are published online. Because anyone can publish a website, what we find online may or may not be credible, accurate, or biased. As a college student, it's your job to pay attention to what you find online and use your critical mind to evaluate whether a website is appropriate to use. This page will help you do that:

  • The CRAP Test guides you to think about four important aspects of any source. (Note: You can use the CRAP Test on books, articles, and other sources too!) 
  • More questions you could ask! outlines many issues that might suggest whether a website is appropriate for college-level researchNot every question will be relevant for every source, but this list will give you ideas. (Scroll down to the bottom of this page.)
  • Google like a Pro will help you use the Google search engine with a critical mind, yielding results closer to what you want (vs. what Google thinks you should want).

The CRAP Test

The CRAP Test

Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose and Point of View

Man carrying a sign that says "Judgement Day May 21, 2011"

When was the information published or posted?

Do you need historical or current information?

Has this information been revised or changed since it was first released?

BOTTOM LINE: Does this offer appropriately current or historical information?

Image: Bummer by Nick Harris1Used under CC BY-ND

The word reliable. The letters that make up the word are starting to fall off.What kind of information is included in this resource?

Is the content of the resource primarily opinion?

Is it balanced?

Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

BOTTOM LINE:  Is this quality, trustworthy information?

Image: "Reliable" by Eva the Weaver. Used underCC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Man standing with several cameras hanging around his neck. Cannot see man's face.

Who is the author?  Who is the publisher?

  • What expertise do they have with this subject?
  • What is their educational background?
  • Where are they from? Where are they living now?
  • What political party do they belong to?
  • What organizations or causes do they support?
  • Are there any other biases you can ascertain?

BOTTOM LINE: Can you trust this author and publisher to know what they're talking about?

Image: [Man with Cameras] by i k o. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

World War Two poster that says "Millions of troops are on the move; is your trip necessary?"

What is the purpose of this information source?

  • To entertain? Inform? Educate? Pursuade? Sell? 
  • Are advertisements included? Photographs?

Is the information fact, opinion, or propoganda?

Do the authors/publishers make their intentions clear?

  • Is there bias - political, cultural, religious, ideological, personal, etc?

BOTTOM LINE: Is this source objective and impartial, or is it influenced by bias or hidden agendas?

Image: "Is your trip necessary?" by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious.Used under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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More questions you could ask!

Dang, this list is long! Not every question will be relevant for every source, but this list will give you ideas to consider when you're choosing online sources.

Purpose of the site and intended audience
  • Is there an "About" link that describes the site's purpose or intended audience?
  • Just by looking at the site, can you guess what audience the site's author is trying to reach?
  • Is the site scholarly or popular?
  • Does the site contain advertising? What might this tell you?
  • What is the overall purpose of the site? To inform? Persuade or advocate? Entertain? Sell a product?
Authority and credibility of author
  • Can the author of the site be identified? Is it clear who (a person or an organization) has ultimate responsibility for what's on the site?
  • Is contact information given for the author or organization responsible, so you could get clarification or more information?
  • What are the author's qualifications? Do they list their occupation, employer, or education? Is this information easy to find, buried, or a few clicks away?
  • Do you think the author has expertise on the subject? How would you know?
  • Does the author work for an educational institution? A nonprofit organization? A company?
  • What is the domain of the site (.edu, .gov, .org, .com)? Is it an academic, governmental, organizational, commercial, or personal site? From what country does it originate?
  • Is this site connected to an organization of any sort? If so, what is the mission of this organization?
Accuracy and reliability of the information on the site
  • Does the site appear to be well researched? 
  • Are there references to sources of information supporting any statements made or viewpoints held?
  • Is statistical information labeled clearly and easy to read?
  • Are the sources for any factual or statistical information documented so that they can be verified in another source?
  • What method of data collection or research was used by the author (if applicable)?
  • Does the site include grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?
  • How does the site compare to print information resources available on this topic?
  • If links to other sites are listed, are they quality sites?
Currency and timeliness of the information on the site
  • When was this information published? Does the page list the date it was created?
  • Does the page indicate when it was last updated?
  • Are there any "dead" links -- that is, links to other sites that no longer work?
  • Does the graphic design of the site look old-fashioned or outdated?
Objectivity or bias of the site
  • Are the goals of the author clearly stated? Is there a statement of scope, target audience, or purpose?
  • Does the site present mulitple opinions on the topic, or only one?
  • Can you tell if the site contains mostly opinions or facts?
  • Can you identify any bias in the information and opinions provided?
  • Is the site sponsored by a company or organization?
  • Does the site reflect the agenda of a political, religious, or social group or institution?
  • If there is advertising on the site, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?
Structure and navigation of the site
  • Is the organization of the site easy to understand? Is it clear and logical?
  • Is it easy to navigate between different parts of the site?
  • Is there a link to return to the first page of the site, the home page?
  • Does the site offer a table of contents or a site index?
  • Do graphics on the site add to or detract from the site itself? (or distract you from the informational content?)
  • Is this site a reliable, well-documented source of information from a reputable author or organization?
  • Would this be a good source of information for a college-level research paper?

(This list is adapted from pp. 87-88 in Teaching Information Literacy by Burkhardt, MacDonald, and Rathemacher, 2010)

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