When looking at any source of information--from books, to articles, to websites--you should evaluate as many of the following areas as possible. Take the CAARP test by asking yourself the questions below; if you have trouble answering them or can't find the answers the source may be fishy.
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Can you find a publication date, creation date, or copyright date?
Does the information seem out of date?
The currency of information will be more important for topics that require the most up-to-date information, such as the sciences.
Strategy: In a book, look towards the front for the publication year or copyright date. For an article, look at the top or bottom for a date. For a website, look at the top or bottom of the webpage.
Who is the author?
What are his/her qualifications, or credentials?
Is he/she an expert in that particular field?
How much has the author published?
Do other people make reference to his/her work?
Who is responsible for publishing the source or hosting it online?
Strategy: Do a Google search for the author's name and analyze the results.
How reliable is the information?
Can the facts be checked against other sources?
Are sources of factual information and statistics cited?
How does this compare to other information sources on the same topic?
Is the information free of spelling, grammar, and typographical errors?
Strategy: Search for an article, book, or website on the same topic and compare the information in both sources.
What is the depth and breadth of the information?
Does this information source have any real value?
How does this compare to other sources on the same topic?
Does it cover the same information? More information or less information?
Strategy: Look at the content. Do you feel that it provides enough information and will be helpful for your topic?
Does the information have a bias?
Does the information have an agenda, or trying to sell something?
How does the viewpoint compare to other information sources on the same topic?
Strategy: Read the text. Does it seem like the content simply conveys information, or is it trying to persuade?