Evaluating Information

How to Evaluate Resources


The CRAAP Test* is a useful guide to evaluating resources. CRAAP is an acronym for the general categories of criteria that can be used to evaluate information you find. Use the CRAAP Test to decide if information is appropriate for your research! See also Evaluating Information from a Citation

CRAAP

  Questions to consider

Currency

  • When was the information published or last updated?
  • Have newer articles been published on your topic?
  • Are links or references to other sources up to date?
  • Is your topic in an area that changed rapidly, like technology or popular culture?

 Examples:

 Outdated Information: http://www.vegsource.com/harris/b_cancer.htm

 Current Website: http://www.nytimes.com/

Relevance

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Does the information meet the stated requirements of the assignment?
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
  • Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?

 Examples:

 Questionable Depth:

 http://seawifs.gsfc.nasa.gov/OCEAN_PLANET/HTML/popsci.html

 http://www.timeforkids.com/

Authority

  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or prominent organization?
  • Can you find information about the author from reference sources or the Internet?
  • Do other books or authors cite the author?

 Examples:

 Example of why you should examine the URL and the sponsoring organization:

 http://www.python.org/~guido/

 Example of a more reputable website:

 http://heinzhome.heinzctrinfo.net/index.html

Accuracy

  • Are there statements you know to be false?
  • Are there errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar?
  • Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published?
  • What citations or references support the author’s claims?
  • What do other people have to say about the topic?
 Examples:

  Example of why sources should be verified:

  http://www.improbable.com/airchives/classical/cat/feline-nov2001.html

Purpose

  • Is the author’s purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform?
  • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
  • Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove the claim?
  • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

 Examples:

 Examples of websites with possible bias: 

 http://www.zip4tweens.com/

 http://www.beefnutrition.org/

 http://www.chevron.com/globalissues/climatechange/

Information used courtesy of University of Maryland University College Library and Creighton University Library; modified by Gettysburg College Musselman Library August 2012

Evaluating Information from a Citation

First, make sure you are looking at the most detailed version of the citation/ abstract that is available to you.

Then dig for specifics:

  • Author. Can you determine the author’s affiliation or credentials? Is the author from a university or research organization?
  • Publication date.  When was this published?  Is currency important for your topic?
  • Length.  How long is the article?  2-3 pages does not provide in-depth coverage and is not likely to be a peer-reviewed, research article.
  • Abstract.  Is there an abstract?  Reading an abstract takes much less time than skimming the whole article – use it to help decide if this article will be useful!
  • Peer-review.  Is the article from a peer-reviewed (sometimes called “refereed”) journal?

Sample article record from one of the library databases:

Citation Example

You will notice that the author is from an educational institution; the article was published in August 2009; it has 19 cited references; and the article is 11 pages long. In addition, even though this article was published in August 2009, it has already served as a source for another article, as designated by "Times Cited in this Database."

To ensure that the journal is peer-reviewed, you read more about it on the journal publisher’s website or even look it up in the Ulrichs database (or, ask a librarian!).   

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