15.4 CRAAP Test (Evaluating Sources)

Learning Objectives

  1. Describe the use of the CRAAP test.
  2. Apply CRAAP test to various online sources.

When it comes to research, we can all agree that using Google to find sources is easy and rather convenient. Given how pressed we are for time in this modern day and age with work and school, and other parts of our lives, it’s easy to choose a research method that supports this.  Very often in a class like EN101, the research process takes a back seat to available time.  So we Google ideas, find some sources that “look good” and hope for the best.  But what professor’s read some days on the other side of that research process is often pretty thin when it comes substance.  Sure, a source can look/appear decent, but often there are hidden issues that are discovered later on…usually by the professor when grading an essay. Instructors write things like “source lacks authority” or “this is worse than a well researched Wikipedia article.” And then there are the inevitable point deductions.

Research in college should become a habit for aspiring scholars, and WHERE we find our sources matters.  Our first move should always be to the curated research databases provided by the college we attend.  Academic Search, Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Statista are all examples of databases that provide researchers solid options that bring high levels of credibility.  In short, you need never really worry about the sources you find in a research database.

Most everything else on the web (excluding Google Scholar), on the other hand, is a potential problem and issues of credibility will remain.  However, with some subjects, content from the web will remain an important part of the work we do.  For instance, in the summer of 2018, students writing about the immigration and the forced separation of children from parents will find the most important information in the newspapers of the day.  So for current issues, Google remains  an important part of research.

If you find yourself on the web generally, consider this evaluation tool. The CRAAP Test takes you through a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. The different quality measures will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

Currency:  How old is this information?

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information?
  • Are the links on the site functional?

Relevance: Does this information help me finish my assignment?

  • 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 easy or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?

Authority: Is whoever created this an expert on the subject?

  • 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 (.edu/.gov/.com) reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy:  How much can I trust this information?

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or verified by someone other than the author?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or typing errors?

Purpose: Why was this information created?

  • What is the purpose of the information?  Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade?
  • Is the information factual, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Test Your Ability to CRAAP

Okay, we can agree that the CRAAP acronym is…interesting. Fecal puns aside, the questions above can help you decide if a source is worth using.  The question of Authority looms large in academic research. When it comes to credentials (education, experience, and qualifications), these details matter.  For example, Professor Bryan Hiatt teaches English at Frederick Community College. His area of expertise is EN101, and in providing support to instructors who teach EN101. Yet from 2005-2012, Professor Hiatt wrote over 30 book reviews, short biographies, and other content for the World War II Database, an online site dedicated to the history of World War II.

LINK: https://ww2db.com/person_bio.php?person_id=181

Anyone visiting the site (and thousands have through the years), might find the design pleasing and the information compelling and informative. Yet exploring the About pages at ww2db.com, it’s clear that the site is run by a dedicated editor who is a coder by trade, and a host of other very thoughtful history enthusiasts.  So while Professor Hiatt certainly brings a wealth of writing experience to any World War II piece, he’s a writing teacher…not a historian.  So his work, and the work of others on this site, probably isn’t the best choice when it comes to academic research.  Interesting to the right reader, no doubt.  The CRAAP test helps us to discover what’s really behind the curtain.


Linked below are web sites for review, each with its own set of issues.  The linked worksheet (for instructors) can be a useful tool to help with the source evaluation process.


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