Q. Can a website be a good source?
A website can definitely be a good source! There are a number of absolutely fantastic websites out there that provide information that otherwise may not be accessible in Defiance, Ohio.
The problem with websites is that for every good one, there's a bad one. The Internet is unfiltered and anybody can make a website saying whatever they want, whether it's true or biased or crazy. You have to use extreme caution and careful evaluation when Googling to find sources. Sticking to government (.gov) or educational (.edu) websites can be a good start, but that still doesn't guarantee a "good" source.
Also, you need to be sure that your professor will accept a website as a legitimate source. Sometimes professors restrict formats for information sources, so you need to make sure that websites will be accepted BEFORE you begin your research. Always follow the directions given by your syllabus, assignment sheet or professor.
Remember also, Good is a relative term ... what is sufficient, acceptable, relevant, or worthy changes with each information need. However, there are some general evaluation criteria that you can apply to a website, or any source for that matter, to see whether it meets your information needs.
These criteria form a checklist known as the CRAAP test:
- Do I need current or historical information? Is this the most updated source I can find? Or is this source from the proper time frame to serve as a historical resource?
- Has this information been revised or changed since it was published?
- Bottom line: Does this offer appropriately current or historical information?
- Does this information help me accomplish the purpose of my paper/work?
- Does this easily relate to my topic?
- Does this information strengthen my argument or statements?
- Bottom line: Is this a source that adds value to my work? Is it worth including?
- Who is the author? What expertise do they have -- knowledge, education, experience?
- Who is the publisher? Why have they made this information available?
- Does the author or published have any motivation or bias for their work?
- Bottom line: Can you trust this author to know what they're talking about? Is this person the best source that you can find on this topic?
- Is this information correct? Reliable?
- Can this information be verified in other sources?
- What methods did they use to collect this information/data? How did they draw their conclusions?
- Do they list their sources? Are these sources academic/scholarly/credible?
- Bottom line: Can you trust that this information is true?
- Why was this written? Why does this information exist? Why was it made public?
- What was the writer's purpose? The publisher's purpose?
- Are there any hints of bias? Is the author up front about this bias?
- Is this information trying to persuade or influence you?
- Bottom line: Understanding the purpose of the source can ensure that you do not fall prey to biased or one-sided information.