Magazine article Internet@Schools

Teaching Website Evaluation

Magazine article Internet@Schools

Teaching Website Evaluation

Article excerpt

Website evaluation is now a vital, lifelong learning skill. While libraries have a vast amount of resources, and while we do encourage the students to use those very same resources, we spend time with first-year college students teaching website evaluation. It is particularly important to learn evaluation since most students will no longer have access to library resources upon leaving their institution. Additionally, even when the students are in high school or college, there are situations where the best information is not available through the library but via the internet.

With the students using websites for both academic and personal use, we want them to critically understand the information they are seeking. Finally, at the collegiate level, the new ACRL Framework has allowances for website evaluation. The frame Authority Is Constructed and Contextual contains the following knowledge practices and dispositions:

* Use research tools and indicators of authority to determine the credibility of sources, understanding the elements that might temper this credibility

* Recognize that authoritative content may be packaged formally or informally and may include sources of all media types

* Develop awareness of the importance of assessing content with a skeptical stance and with a self-awareness of their own biases and worldview

-"The Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education," Association of College and Research Libraries; acrl/standards/ilframework, February 2015

The above statements provide an insight into website evaluation-the idea that because something is on the open web doesn't mean it's necessarily bad or good, that that judgment needs to come from evaluation itself, and that biases exist even in what appear to be credible sources.


At William Patterson University, the backbone of our website evaluation instruction is the often-used CRAAP test adapted from California State University-Chico ("Evaluating Information-Applying the CRAAP Test," California State University-Chico, handouts/eval_websites.pdf; September 2010). The CRAAP test is a website evaluation tool that asks users to look at a website for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose (i.e., CRAAP). We found that this was an easy acronym for the students to remember (!) and that it provided a clear overall picture of website evaluation.


At our institution, library instruction varies between disciplines and classes, although in a given year, approximately 300 different classes receive library instruction. Library instruction is heavily marketed in some departments but is not mandatory in any class. In addition, classes that receive library instruction traditionally have a research-based assignment the students need to find sources for. In some research assignments, the professors allow the students the use of websites, but that is not the case for all of them.

To teach students website evaluation, we packaged it as part of the overall library instruction/orientation lesson for firstyear seminar (FYS) classes. Most incoming first-year students at our institution need to take FYS as a graduation requirement. The library works closely with the director of FYS to ensure that most classes receive library instruction. We are able to package it and promote it as a library orientation; for most students, this will be the first time they attend a library instruction session. Library instruction for FYS is 75 minutes.

In FYS, the students traditionally do not come with a pre-existing research assignment, so the co-coordinators of user education designed one using themes found in the Common Reader, the book assigned to all incoming first-year students. The assignment was created using Google Forms and was easy to access for both librarians and students. Up through spring 2014, the format of the class was as follows:

Part I: Finding a book using the catalog

Part II: Finding an article using one of the databases

Part III: Website evaluation

In most cases, the website evaluation piece felt rushed; sometimes the librarian would not be able to cover it at all. …

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