Evaluating the Credibility of Websites

By on March 17, 2013

My 8th graders are in the middle of a research paper on Westward Movement. For this assignment students are required to use at least three sources: one print source, one web based source, and a third of their choice. Every year we deal with the issue of students wanting to use sites like Wikipedia, About.com, and Ask.com as cited sources. This year our 8th grade Core team (inspired by the 21st century skill focus of the Common Core Standards) decided to explicitly teach students how to evaluate the credibility and reliability of websites. We found a few different resources on-line and created a user friendly check list for our students to complete as they were selecting websites to use for their papers.

The checklist we created is organized by the acronym C.A.R.S (credibility, accuracy, reliability, sources). Each of the 8th grade teachers reviewed the checklist with students before taking them to the computer lab to conduct their research. Before students began taking any notes on their research topics, they were required to complete the checklist. It was a great learning experience for all students. Many students were surprised to discover how hard it was to find an actual author of a website. One student, upon finding the author of her site said, "Ms. Olamit, I don't think this guy is a reliable author because it says he once spent some time evading law enforcement before creating this website." Examples like this were great for students to learn from and pretty hilarious.

The next time I had this group of students I had them write a reflective paragraph on what they learned about evaluating websites. Students were able to express in their own words what makes a website credible. We also discussed the fact that Wikipedia actually met many of the criteria on our evaluation sheet and whether or not it should be able to "count" as a site that they could reference in their papers. All in all the activities led to interesting discussions and most importantly got students to begin critically examining the web sites they use for research online.

Check out the website evaluation checklist we created and let me know how it goes using it with your students!

You can also try LiteracyTA's Evaluating Sources activities.

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital resources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
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