There are several tools available to evaluate health websites. Most of them list criteria that reliable websites should meet. Here is a summary of the main criteria.
Criteria for Evaluate Health Websites on the Internet
- Author: The website should clearly identify the author, institution, and editorial board (the people responsible for the professional review of the content).
- Date: The website should contain current scientific information, and the content should be updated regularly.
- Objectivity: The website should be evidence-based and objective (factual) in its content, listing benefits and risks (e.g., side effects). The website should mention other treatment options, if available, including no treatment, and it should encourage patients to consult with a health care professional.
- Purpose: The website should state its purpose clearly. Any advertising should be clearly marked and separated from the site’s main content.
- Transparency: The website should identify its ownership, sources of funding, and explain how it collects and uses personal information.
- Usability: The website should be easy to use, well-organized, and well-designed. It should provide a way of contacting the owner of the site.
There will be some credible websites that don’t meet all the criteria. Likewise, there will be unreliable websites that look very slick and seem to meet all of them. Ultimately, the only way to know if online health information is accurate is to find the source and read the scientific study being referenced.
The CRAAP Test: Helps to Evaluate Health Information on the Web
The CRAAP test is a test to check the objective reliability of sources across academic disciplines. CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
- When was the information published or posted?
- Has the information been revised or updated?
- Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
- Are the links functional?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
- Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
- Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
- Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?
Authority: The source of the information.
- Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
- What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations?
- Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
- Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
- Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
- Where does the information come from?
- Is the information supported by evidence?
- Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
- Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
- Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
- Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
- What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
- Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
- Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
- Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
- Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
- Aslani A, Pournik O, Abu-Hanna A, Eslami S. Web-site evaluation tools: a case study in reproductive health information. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2014;205:895-899. [Medline]
- California State University, Chico. Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test. Accessed Jul 21, 2020. [Website]
Created: Jul 18, 2020.