We’ve said that library resources
can help you find higher quality
information in less time.
But what exactly is it that makes a
piece of information high quality
We don’t mean to say that you can’t
find any trustworthy information
using Google or another search
engine. (Of course you can.)
The point is you need to carefully
evaluate your sources before using
or trusting them.
A handy way to remember the
major criteria for evaluating
information is to always apply the
What does that mean?
The five key criteria for evaluating
information are Currency, Relevance,
Authority, Accuracy and Purpose (CRAAP).
Let’s take a look at the specific questions you
should be asking yourself as you evaluate a
source and put it to the CRAAP test.
Currency: The timeliness of the
• When was the information published or
• Has it been revised or updated?
• Does your topic require current information,
or will older sources work as well? (Topics in
medicine or technology, for example,
change very quickly.)
Relevance: The importance of the
information for your needs
• Does the information relate to your topic or
help answer your question?
• Who is the intended audience?
• Is the information at an appropriate level
(i.e. not too elementary or advanced for
Authority: The source of the
• Who is the author and is he or she qualified to
write on the topic?
• Is there an organization that publishes,
sponsors or is otherwise responsible for the
• What can you learn from the URL? (.edu and
.gov are usually better; .com and .org could
be created by anyone.)
Accuracy: The reliability and
correctness of the content
• Is the information supported by evidence?
• Can you verify the claims in another source
or from personal knowledge?
• Does the language or tone seem unbiased
and free of emotion?
• Are there spelling, grammar or
Purpose: The reason the information
• What is the main goal of the information? To
inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
• Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda
(ie. tricking you into one point of view)?
• Can you identify any political, ideological,
cultural, religious, institutional or personal
Every website is different, so there
aren’t clearly defined places where
you’ll always look for these criteria.
Instead, you need to bring a critical
eye to every source and hunt around
until you find what you need.
Let’s look at some examples.
Let’s say we
come across this
One of the first
things to check is
Here we can find
date right near
the top. This
article is from
2015, so it
But what about this example? It doesn’t
seem to have a publication date anywhere.
If you don’t see a date near the top, try the very
In this case, we have to decide if this is fine for our
project or a bit older than we want to use.
If we need information on dinosaurs for a science
class, this kids site wouldn’t be appropriate.
would this one,
although in this
source is too
This site looks to be the right level for our
needs, so it passes the relevance test, and it
also gets into the next criterion: authority.
Here we immediately see the organization
responsible for the site’s content, and in this
case it is a very trustworthy one.
If you aren’t familiar with an organization,
Google it to learn more and see if it’s trustworthy.
Sometimes it won’t
In a well-known
looks at first glance
like it might be a
But for it to pass
the authority test,
we need to figure
out who is
responsible for the
There is no
author listed, but
at the very
the name of the
Let’s see what
we find when we
Now we know MartinLutherKing.org
will have an extreme, hateful bias
even though this may not be clear at
You should apply this same principle
to other situations, like a major drug
or food company sponsoring a health
study or food-related website.
Now let’s say we’re researching study habits.
Does this site pass the authority test?
First we should see what we can learn about
the author, and we find a bio below the article.
He certainly looks qualified to write about
But it’s always a
good idea to try to
with another site,
since anyone could
create a website
and pretend to be
It’s a good idea to also check the authority
of the website itself, and you can usually find
an “About” page either in the top menu, at
the very bottom, or sometimes in a sidebar.
In this case it’s hidden on the bottom.
And what we find here only clinches what
we already figured: this is a very trustworthy
website that passes the authority test.
Now let’s check
the authority of
a second site on
author listed at
the top, so let’s
There’s a name but absolutely no real info here, so
now I’m very skeptical. This could even be a fake
Also be sure to look for clues such as frequent
misspellings, bad grammar, and awkward
usage that indicate a low-quality source.
This site also has problems with accuracy, in
particular a number of claims made without any
sort of evidence or sources cited.
No sources given anywhere on the site
This site also demonstrates the next
criterion: purpose. Here it turns out the
motivation for the site is to sell an ebook,
which is linked to frequently.
Takes you to the sales
page for an ebook of
The presence of ads or items for sale doesn’t
automatically disqualify a source, but it is
something you should weigh carefully against
the other criteria.
The first site, on the other hand, was designed to
inform readers, not manipulate or sell to them.
The sites you come across will
rarely be 100% good or 100% bad.
They may have some high-quality
aspects and others that undermine
their credibility. It is up to you to
decide if a particular source passes
the CRAAP test for your needs.
Be sure to look at your assignment
or ask your instructor how many
web sources (ie. not found in a
library database) you can use, if
The CRAAP test is most crucial for
evaluating sites found on the open
web but several of the criteria are
very important for library sources
For example, if we are researching online
privacy, a topic that changes fast, ten years is a
very long time so this ebook found in LibSearch
is likely too old to use. But for some other topics
this year might be perfectly fine to pass the
And this journal article looks very authoritative
and current, but it does not pass the relevance
test: it is far too specific and technically
advanced for our needs. (Unless we are in an
upper-level computer networking course.)
For another example, if your instructor told
you to consult a scholarly source, this
news article would not pass the authority
test, since it is a popular source written by a
journalist for a general audience.
Next Steps: Look over the
resources in the “further activities”
section to the right and take the
Quiz below it.
Also, please leave any comments or
questions you have below this
Slides 26-30 adapted from “Evaluating Sources.” Georgia Southwestern State University.
CRAAP test adapted from California State University, Chico’s “Evaluating Information: Applying
the CRAAP Test” 'http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf
Key Takeaway: It’s important to evaluate the
information you come across, and a good way to
do it is to always apply the “CRAAP Test.” This
means to evaluate the Currency, Relevance,
Authority, Accuracy and Purpose of each source
you encounter. These criteria are important for
both websites found through search engines and
sources found in library databases.