Evaluating the Credibility of Websites

Although there is a lot of useful information on the internet, not all information can be considered reliable or valid and not all websites are credible.  Individuals or groups are able to set up a website, create a logo, apply copyright to their material, and present material online with the appearance of credibility and backing by a reputable organisation or group.  However, the information provided may not always align with other credible works on the topic. Given that self-published work is generally not used in academic writing, and the internet contains much self-published work, care must be taken to assess the source of material you wish to use in your assignment.


How to use this guide

Use the following questions to help you critically evaluate websites. You will not usually need to answer every question listed or search in all the locations suggested.  For example, the Statistics New Zealand website can be considered to contain reliable information and only currency and relevance of the information you have sourced would need to be assessed. For a checklist method of website evaluation see pages three and four of this guide.

What to look for Where to look

Credibility Who is the author?

  • What are the author’s qualifications and from which institution?
  • Is the website really a personal page which gives the appearance of representing an organisation or larger group?
  • If it is a genuine organisation, does the author’s writing align with the organisation’s values and goals?
  • Do contact details allow opportunity to communicate with the author and ask them questions?
  • Is the tone and style of writing factual?
  • Are there grammar and spelling errors?
  • Look for tabs titled “About us," "Philosophy," "Background," "Biography".
  • Check in academic databases to locate other publications by the author.
  • Search for this person online.
  • Consider the tone, style and quality of writing.  Inappropriate tone and style, and poor grammar and spelling are signals which may indicate poor credibility.
  • Look at the URL domain names to help determine the type of organisation:

  • .gov or .govt 






    .ac or .edu

    academic or educational


    commercial (can be used by private individuals)

Check on line for significance of a domain name if you are unsure.

AuthorityIs the author qualified to comment?

  • Does the author have relevant expertise, experience or previous relevant publications?
  • Has this person been cited by others?

AccuracyCan you verify the information?

  • Are the references used real, credible, and relevant?
  • Is the information consistent with other authors’ findings?
  • Check sources/references used.
  • Research other publications on the same topic.

Currency – Is the information current?

  • Is there a publication date?
  • Is there reference to recent published material?


Look for publication and revision dates – usually, but not always, at the bottom of a web page.

If the page is undated content cannot be placed in time and it is therefore not always possible to be sure the information is current.

BiasIs the information one-sided?

  • What is the purpose of the website? Who, therefore, is the intended audience?
  • Is there a professed or apparent commitment to a particular point of view, product, or service?
  • Is any bias acknowledged?
  • Are alternative sides of the issue or topic presented?
  • Is advertising present on the page? The presence of advertising may signal bias towards advertiser’s products, values, beliefs.

Decide if the purpose is to persuade, present a point of view, disclose, entertain, sell, justify the author’s own actions or opinions, or present data and facts.

Check for sound argument, supporting facts, and references that include sources representing more than one point of view.

Assess any advertising present.

LinksWhat do the website links tell you?

  • Are there any dead links?
  • Who links to the page?
  • Who does the page link to?

Follow links and assess their credibility.

Links can give insight into possible bias.
Note that a link to another organisation does not mean the information has been condoned or approved of by that organisation.



Checklist for evaluating a website

Credibility and Authority
Who is the author of the website?

□ I cannot tell                  □The author is:............................................................

What is the qualification of the author or group?

□ I cannot tell                  □The author’s qualifications are: ........................................

What is the relevant experience or expertise to comment on the topic?

□ I cannot tell                  □The author’s relevant experience or expertise is:.....................

What does the URL tell me?

□ I cannot tell                  □Type of organisation is:...................................................  

Does the website provide a way of communicating with the author?

□Yes              □ No


What sources does the author use to back up their comments?

□ I cannot tell                  □They cited:................................................................

Are the conclusions drawn or information provided consistent with other authors’ comments?

□ I cannot tell                  □Other relevant citations include:........................................

Do the sources cited contain sound material?

□ I cannot tell                  □Yes                    □No


What is the purpose of the website?         (choose one)

□ To express personal opinion, beliefs, thoughts
□ To entertain
□ To persuade towards purchase of a product, service, belief
□ To encourage
□ To inform
□ To present data and facts

Information provided is:

□ Balanced, objective or factual   □ Biased, subjective or opinionated?

Are arguments well supported?      □ Yes           □No
Is bias acknowledged?                   □ Yes           □No


When was the website last updated?

□ I cannot tell        □ Not important for my topic       □ It was updated:..........................



Are the links to sound material?

□ Yes          □ No

Are links broken?

□ Yes          □ No 

(Adapted from University of Maryland Libraries, 2014)



Bell, C. (n.d.). Critical evaluation of information sources. Retrieved form https://library.uoregon.edu/guides/findarticles/credibility.html

Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask. (n.d.). Retrieved fromhttp://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html

University Library: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2012). Evaluating internet sources: Tips and tricks for evaluating web sites. Retrieved from http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/webeval.html

University of Maryland Libraries. (2014). Evaluating websites: A checklist. Retrieved from http://www.lib.umd.edu/binaries/content/assets/public/usereducation/evaluating-web-sites-checklist-form-spring-2014.pdf


Useful Link

Evaluating Information - Applying the CRAAP Test


Updated January 2016