Skip to main content

Research Help

This guide will help you through the research process.

Why Evaluate?

Today, we are bombarded by information. We have to filter through all of the information we receive from television, radio, newspaper and the Internet, not to mention what comes to us through work, our families and friends. With so much information coming our way, it is often difficult to determine just what's credible, accurate and reliable. We must all be discerning as consumers of information. We must learn to evaluate what we read and hear in order to separate the good from the bad. As a student, you'll also be expected to find information to back up points you are making in the papers you write. Using unreliable or false information in a paper can affect your credibility with your peers and your instructors (and sometimes your grade), so it is doubly important for you to have effective information-evaluation skills.

It can be tempting to use any source in a paper that supports your topic. The problem is not all information is good information. Below are two evaluation methods, with almost the same name, that can be used as you conduct research. Others are noted in the helpful resources section at the bottom of the page.

The CRAP Test

The CRAP Test, developed by Molly Beestrum, is a helpful tool to use when trying to decide if a website is a credible, valid source. The CRAP Test looks at four major areas: currency, reliability, authority and purpose. When determining whether a website is credible or not, evaluate it on those four areas. Here are a few suggestions to help you think through your evaluation process.
 Currency
  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?

Reliability

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?  Is is balanced?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

Authority

  •  Who is the creator or author?
  • What are the credentials? Can you find any information about the author's background?
  • Who is the published or sponsor?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information?
  • Are there advertisements on the website? If so, are they cleared marked?

Purpose/Point of View

  • Is this fact or opinion? Does the author list sources or cite references?
  • Is it biased? Does the author seem to be trying to push an agenda or particular side?
  • Is the creator/author trying to sell you something? If so, is it clearly stated?

Adapted with gratitude from Molly Beestrum.

Helpful Resources

  • The CRAAP Test - An easy to remember method of evaluation is the CRAAP test (Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose). The original test designer's site from the Meriam Library, California State University-Chico. September 17, 2010.
  • Evaluating Sources of Information -  (from the Purdue OWL)
  • Evaluating Resource Quality - LibGuide from the Christopher Center Library Services at Valparaiso University - has great section on different periodicals and their biases.

The CRAAP Test

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 the 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?

You can download a PDF version of the CRAAP Test here.