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English 101: Evaluating Sources

A research guide for English 101 students

Evaluating Sources for Credibility


How many times has a student submitted an assignment using a random, obscure or, even worse, a plagiarized Web site as a source? It probably happens more frequently than realized. An easy way to help students navigate through the myriad of Web sites is to use CAPOW. For an excellent critical thinking assignment, ask students to take a sample Web page and put CAPOW to the test.

CAPOW stands for:

  • Currency: Direct students to check for the date the Web site may have been last updated (often at the bottom of the Web page). Last revision date more than three years ago? Check another resource.
  • Authorship: Students should ask the following questions about the Web site: Who wrote the Web page or Web site? What makes that individual or organization qualified to write it? Who sponsors the Web page’s information?
  • Purpose: This is tricky for most students. Is the Web site informational, entertaining, factual, and does it promote a product or service? Who is the intended audience? Does the information seem credible? If so, can you check the information against another resource (i.e. book, journal article, newspaper, etc.) for credibility?
  • Objectivity: Students should critically evaluate whether or not the information on the Web site is biased or factual. Are opinions balanced or does the author have an agenda? How do you tell? Check the information against another credible source (i.e. book, journal article, newspaper, etc.).
  • Writing Style: Students should check to verify if the Web site contains a bibliography of references or a comprehensive list to other sources supporting its theme, topic, or agenda. If some of those other sources are Web sites, do the links work? If facts or statistics are noted, ask students to check the validity of those facts or statistics against another credible source.

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