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Evaluating for credible, authoritative, reliable sources: CRAAP!

Context and tips for how to evaluate sources, including web sites, so you can use credible, authoritative, reliable sources

Evaluating your sources -- give it the CRAAP test!

This is a more simplistic approach, but easy to recall! While the importance of each of these criteria depending on your situation or need, decide how reliable your source is by using these evaluation points: 

CRAAP test

Criteria: C is for Currency R is for Relevance A is for Authority A is for Accuracy P is for Purpose
Questions to ask yourself:
  • When was the information published?
  • How recently has the website been published?
  • Is it current enough for my topic?
  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Does this source give you credible information to answer your research question and help you support the claims you are making?
  • Is this source written at the level my instructor requires? (like if your instructor requires a scholarly source, etc.)
  • Would you be comfortable citing this as a source in your paper? Or is there a better source?
  • Who (or what organization) is the creator or author? Is there even an author listed?
  • What are the credentials, or background, of the author(s) -- education, training, experience?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor -- are they reputable?
  • Does the author provide references or sources for data or quotations?
  • Does the information correlate, or align with, information found in other reputable sources?
  • Are there any major spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors?
  • Is the content of the resource primarily opinion or fact? 
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell me something, or convince me of something?
  • Are there advertisements on the website?
  • Is there bias, and if so, is that bias stated upfront? Or is that bias hidden?
Keep in mind: The topic itself! If you are asked to write a paper about Shakespearean criticism, it probably won’t matter if the sources you find are old or new since the topic is one that certainly hasn't changed. However, something science related -- perhaps the role of genetically modified foods on the body -- well, your source would need to be more recent for it to be relevant.​   Remember, it’s very important to make sure that the author is qualified to be discussing the topic he or she is writing about. For example, my cousin might have a Master’s degree in English, but that doesn’t make her qualified to speak about engineering. The author’s education, work experience, or other publications must be in the field that he or she is writing about to be considered an expert!​ Remember, when performing research, you don’t want to just use one source, even if it is a book or an academic journal article. You want to make sure that the same information shows up in other sources, too, so you know that the information is factual. Remember, that if obvious biases and agendas are present, it doesn't necessarily mean that you cannot use the source. For example, if you are told to write an argumentative paper exploring both sides of an issue, it doesn’t matter if the sources you find are biased! But you do need to be aware of how it shapes the information and the way it is presented.
Tips:       If you find a piece of information has a lot of spelling or grammatical errors, or even broken links, you may want to think twice about using it! Many grammar errors and typos can be a sign of a poor quality publication. A good way to evaluate a website’s bias is to look for a “about” or “about us” link. It’s usually found at the bottom of the page. 

Image source: "Reliability of Sources: The CRAAP Test" by Eastern Michigan University Library is licensed under CC BY NC SA.

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