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Website Evaluation: Resources

Fake websites

Fake Websites

The Scam:

Criminals create fake websites that look like legitimate websites in order to trick the user into entering their personal information such as their username, password, credit card, or social security numbers. These sites often look identical to the real one and might even have similar web addresses to trick the user.

For example, a fictitious fake website ( could be made to look like a legitimate bank website ( Notice the different URLS for the websites.

When the user enters their information in the fake site the scammer now has their banking credentials.

Don’t Get Fooled:

Always type in the URL of the website in an email, do not click on the links. If you are unsure if an email is legitimate always call the business phone number on the website you typed in, not from the email.

Fake Sites? What?

QuestionWebsites are a special concern for your instructors because some sites are published as jokes, propaganda, outright lies, and some are published by people who simply don't know what they're talking about.

Since most Websites are not screened before being published you will be responsible for evaluating the sites you use.

Fake Site Examples

Check out these fake scientific and commercial sites, or these social, political, religious, tourism and more sites.

Click on the images to visit the sites. Most of them seem very credible, but they are all fake.

Sadly, Dog Island does not exist.

Dog Island

How to Spot Fake Sites?

Fake sites, propaganda sites, sites that lie. With stuff like this going on how are college students supposed to know what is true and what isn't?

There are some key steps that can help you determine if your sources are fake or if they are appropriate for college level research.

If all or most of the information below is missing from the site then it makes your job of determining the accuracy and value much more difficult. What it does let know is that it is not appropriate for college level research.

1. Credentials
What does the author know about the subject? Do they have a job or degree related to the topic?
2. Objectivity
Does the author have an agenda? Are they associated with a special interest group?
3. Documentation
Where did the author get the information? Are sources cited? Can you find the sources cited to verify the information?
4. Conclusions
Do the conclusions that the site comes to about the topic line up with other sources on the topic? This is actually the most important piece since sites that are fake may also fake credentials, documentation, etc.

Case Study: Wikipedia

Who does not love Wikipedia? It's fast, it's easy, it's got everything. Sadly, though, it does not come up to college level research standards. It's a great example of some of the best and worst of the web.

In case you don't know, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Some entries are written by experts with lots of detail; others are written by people who don't know very much about the subject, are deliberately misleading you, or are added as a prank. So while Wikipedia is not fake, some of the entires on Wikipedia are.

Theoretically, over time, the inaccurate stuff will go away. Eventually the goal is to publish it in print, and it may end up being the best encyclopedia ever written--time will tell.

Colbert v. Wikipedia

Stephen Colbert edited Wikipedia live on The Colbert Report until he was finally banned by Wikipedia. See Colbert speaks, America follows: All hail Wikiality!. In response, Colbert created a mock site: Wikiality, The Truthiness Encyclopedia.

Poster 5Ws

Evaluation resources

How to Evaluate Sources

EvaluateAs a college student you know that your job is to evaluate the sources you use for your papers, presentations and research. But how do you do it?

These steps are most appropriate for sources available from the library, but they can be tweaked for web and news sources. Get tips for spotting fake sitesfake news and media bias

1. Credentials
What does the author know about the subject?
2. Objectivity
Does the author have an agenda?
3. Documentation
Where did the author get the information?
4. Timeliness
When was the material written?
5. Review and Editing
Has the material been reviewed for publication?

A collection of Web evaluation tools

A Collection of Web Evaluation Tools

This resource contains links to website evaluation tools and acronyms to assist high school students with critical evaluation.  Students may find it helpful to have exposure to a variety of tools.  Students can self select the tool that best fits his/her needs and learning styles.

Web Evaluation Tools

The 5W’s of Web Site Evaluation by Kathy Schrock (Who, What, When, Where, Why)

Evaluating Sources (CARP Test) by Northwest University (Currency, Authority, Relevance & Reliability, Purpose/Point of View)

Evaluate Your Sources (A CRAB and TRAAP) by St. Louis Community College Libraries (Authority, Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Bias; Timeliness, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose)

Evaluating Information - Applying the CRAAP Test by California State University (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose)

Additional Resources

Website Evaluator by Easybib

This resource allows students to paste in a website URL. Easybib will walk students step by step through a website evaluation process.  Steps include: Purpose, Accuracy, Authority/Author, Publisher, Relevance, Currency, and Review

Website credibility by Easybib

This resource provides a presentation with examples of websites that are credible, may be credible, are not credible, a special note on Wikipedia, and evaluation guidelines. Presentation may be downloaded into a PowerPoint file.  

Evaluating Sources: Online Sources by Frontier Nursing University

This resource contains descriptions of key terms related to evaluating websites. The resource also contains a comprehensive list of different tools that are available to assist with student web evaluation.


1. Credentials: What Does the Author Know About the Subject?

What are the author’s credentials?

Look for information like the author's education, experience, occupation, position, and other publications by the author to help you determine whether the author knows about their subject.

Where to find credentials for articles

Articles may or may not present credentials. Popular magazines usually just list the author's name, but sometimes even that is not listed. Articles in professional or scholarly journals may list credentials at the beginning or end of an article and usually include the name of the author and details that pertain to their expertise on the topic, such as education, occupation or college or university at which the author teaches on the subject. (see the chart below under 5. Review and Editing).


Where to find credentials for books

The credentials of the author of a book are frequently on the jacket, or at the beginning of a book.


Where to find credentials for web sites

Web sites, like articles, may or may not present credentials. A common place for Web sites to list credentials is at the top or bottom of the page. You may have to go back to the home page of the site to see credentials. If credentials are not listed, that does not mean that the author has no expertise, but it does make it hard for you to evaluate whether he/she/they do and that means the sources may not be appropriate for college level research.


2. Objectivity : Does the Author Have an Agenda?

What is the likely bias (if any) of the author (individual or institution)?

The purpose of the author in presenting ideas, opinions, or research may in part determine the usefulness of the source. Does the source show political, cultural or other bias? Are opposing points of view represented? Is this information verified in other sources? You may not be able to evaluate the objectivity of any single resource until you have looked at all your resources. Even biased sources can sometimes be used, if you are aware of the bias.

Where to find in Books or Articles

The book jacket or back of book may have information that can help you determine bias; articles may have information at the beginning or end of the article. The credentials of the author may give you clues to bias.

Where to Find on Web Sites

On Web sites, there may be an “about us,” or “about this site,” or “who we are” page that details what causes or ideas the site stands for. The Cato Institute states very clearly what their special interests are:


3. Documentation: Where Did the Author Get the Information?

What sources did the author of your source use?

The amount and type of documentation used affects the value of your source and may help you verify the facts or conclusions presented. Documentation generally consists of bibliography, footnotes, credits, sources, or quotations. Resources that include documentation are considered more reliable and scholarly and are more suitable for college level research. Your instructors know that having documentation makes it easier to evaluate a work--that's why it's usually required on your research papers!

Where to find the documentation

Documentation is usually at the end of a book, article, or Web page.


4. Timeliness: When Was the Material Written?

The date of publication may determine the value of a source. 

If you are researching computer information, even a year old may be obsolete. If you are researching literature, resources that are 50 years old may still be valid. Frequently your instructor may restrict your resources to a given time period relative to the subject, such as no older then 5 years.

Where to find publication date for books or articles

Date of publication should be clearly listed at the front of a book or periodical.


Where to find publication date for web sites

Web sites may have this information, usually at the bottom of the page.


5. Review and Editing: Was the material reviewed for publication?

When researching for college, keep in mind that scholarly journals and magazines are quite different. Scholarly journals have content that has been written by scholars or experts in their field. The most authoritative scholarly journals are peer reviewed. See the chart below for a comparison of scholarly journals to popular magazines.

Was the material reviewed, edited or fact checked for publication?

Reviewed or edited articles are more closely scrutinized for accuracy and value. Professional or scholarly journals have more reviewed and edited articles than popular magazines (see the chart below).

Where to find review/editing for articles or books

Check the front of the periodical or book for information on the editing, review and selection process for that periodical. Some databases such as Academic OneFile, Academic Search Complete and Research Library let you limit your search to scholarly or peer reviewed journals.

Where to find review/editing for web sites

Web sites may have this information at the beginning or end of a page or on the home page of the site, but are much less likely to have been reviewed. 

The chart below lists criteria that can be used to tell whether you have an article from a scholarly journal or from a popular magazine. Most of the criteria listed for scholarly journal articles can also be applied to books and open access sourcesto help determine their value. The more criteria your resource has listed under the Scholarly Journals column, the more likely it will be a good resource.

Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines

Lengthy, detailed articles Brief articles
References and sources listed References and sources seldom given
Graphs, charts, usually no photographs Photographs
Articles written by an expert, always signed (author's name listed) Articles usually written by staff or freelance writer, frequently unsigned (author's name not listed)
Credentials of author listed Credentials usually unlisted
Aimed at people in the field Aimed at general public
Few or no ads Lots of Ads

May be peer reviewed

Not peer reviewed



Scholarly Journal

Example Scholarly Journals:

Journal of Applied Psychology


Modern Fiction Studies


Popular Magazine

Example Popular Magazines:


Reader's Digest