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HRM320 Research Skills Guide: Website Evaluation Tips

Evaluating websites using the crap test


Your topic will determine how current your resources need to be.

  • When was the webpage published and when was it last updated?
  • If you are unable to locate a date then you should find another source.
  • Is the author relying on old data to support an argument?
  • If links are included, do they still work?

Before using a source you need to know who is responsible for the content.

  • Look for an About Us to give you more information about who is the organisation that provided the information
  • Is the organisation responsible for the site clearly identified (e.g. with an official logo) and are contact details provided?
  • If the site doesn’t have that you consider should not using it as a source.
  • Who is responsible for the site? Is it associated with a respected organisation or institution with a proven track record of reliability and integrity?
  • Blogs, Facebook posts, or other self-authored sites are not considered to be scholarly sources of information unless the author is an expert in the field.

Anyone can publish anything on the Internet. Be wary of using any information that comes from a site without a clear statement of its purpose or the author.

  • You should never use information that is anonymous. If there isn’t a Contacts page or if the author/editor/publisher information isn’t there, you should not consider using the source.
  • What can you gather about the author’s background? Is the author an expert on this topic or are they writing out of interest? Who do they work for? What else have they published? What is their status?
  • Once you have an author, try Googling their name to find out information about them or what others have written about them. See what else they have written. 
  • What evidence does the author provide to back up their claims? Is it from many different sites or just one?
  • Never use Wikipedia as a source because any one can write a new Wikipedia page and anyone can edit or change an existing page.

Ideally, you should be looking for scholarly information that is objective and unbiased.

  • Ask yourself who is the intended audience? Is the content written for experts, scholars, and researchers, or is it intended for a general audience.
  • Look at the sites URL to identify its probable purpose - see the box below 
  • Is advertising mixed in with the content? Try to determine if a relationship exists between the information and the advertising content.
  • Look for links such as “buy” or “subscribe”. Any source that is asking for financial support may not be objective in the research it is providing.


Evaluating website domains

The website domain provides you a hint as to the reliability of the website at which you are looking.

.edu (educational institution)

.gov (government)

These are more likely to be reliable and unbiased.

.org (non-profit organisation)

.asn (non-commercial organisation)

Sometimes these organisations may show a bias toward one side of a topic.

.com (commercial site)

.net (network)

Critically evaluate these sites as they may be unreliable.


Evaluating information

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.

Charles Sturt University is an Australian University, TEQSA Provider Identification: PRV12018. CRICOS Provider: 00005F.