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Evaluating Information: CARS Checklist

Learn how to evaluate information sources

CARS in a Nutshell

  • Credibility - trustworthy source, author’s credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support. Goal: an authoritative source, a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.
  • Accuracy - up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy. Goal: a source that is correct today (not yesterday), a source that gives the whole truth.
  • Reasonableness - fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone. Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth.
  • Support - listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied. Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (find at least two other sources that support it).

Types of Domains

Domains are the endings on websites. Some are limited to certain types of registered organizations (ex. .edu is limited to chartered schools).

Educational institution. Sites using this domain name are schools ranging from kindergarten to higher education. Information from sites within this domain must be examined very carefully. If it is from a department or research center at a educational institution, it can generally be taken as credible. However, students' personal Web sites are not usually monitored by the school even though they are on the school's server and use the .edu domain.

Stands for network...There are all kinds of sites under this domain suffix. Information from these sites should be given careful scrutiny.

Only official U.S. government websites will have addresses that end in “.gov.” Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings are included.

Commercial site. The information provided by commercial interests is generally going to shed a positive light on the product it promotes. While this information might not necessarily be false, you might be getting only part of the picture. Remember, there's a monetary incentive behind every commercial site in providing you with information, whether it is for good public relations or to sell you a product outright

If you use a non-profit organization's site, think about the organization's agenda and how it's likely to influence the way they present information. There are no restrictions on .ORG domain names. Anyone can register, and the domain can be used for any purpose.