With the advent of the internet, information now comes in a wide variety of formats. Whether from Twitter, an internet news site like The Huffington Post, a print book, or a journal article from a library database, you have many options for how and where you gather information. However, quality information is not dictated by its format, but rather by its content. So in a world of various information formats, how do you determine if a source is appropriate for your assignment?

The CRAAP Test is a mnemonic device that can help you remember the essential criteria for evaluating a source.
The following chart explains the criteria and the important questions to ask when evaluating an information source.

 

C

Currency

When was the information published or last updated? Have newer articles been published on your topic?

R

Relevance

Does the information answer your research questions appropriately? Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?

A

Authority

Who are the authors and what are their credentials? Does the author have an institutional affiliation? Can you find out more information about the author from the Internet? Do other books or articles cite the author?

A

Accuracy

Are there statements you know to be false? Was the piece reviewed by editors or scholars? Is there supporting evidence, such as citations and a reference list?

P

Purpose

Why did the author publish this information? Is the author’s purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform? Is there an obvious bias or prejudice? Are alternate points of view presented? Does the author use strong or emotional language?

 

The CRAAP Test can be particularly helpful when evaluating websites. When in doubt about using a particular source in your research, ask a librarian or your instructor.

 

While in college, you will often have to evaluate a source based on its citation in a database. Below are contrasting examples of a scholarly, peer-reviewed citation and a popular magazine citation from an EBSCO database. Suppose you are researching the mental health options for kidnap victims experiencing post-traumatic stress. You can apply the CRAAP Test to the two citations and determine if the sources are appropriate for your research.

 

Scholarly, peer-reviewed article record:

CRAAP - Scholarly.png

The red boxes highlight the parts of the record that will help you apply the CRAAP Test.

  • Currency: Highlighted in yellow next to "Source," you'll see the article was published in October 1991
  • Relevance: Reading the abstract and the subjects, you can determine that this article is relevant to your topic
  • Authority: The authors are hyper-linked and you can see what other topics they've written about; all of the authors are affiliated with the Medical College of Pennsylvania; the publisher of the journal is the American Psychological Association, a trusted organization
  • Accuracy: You will need to read the article to determine this; there are 29 cited references, which indicates that it uses evidence to support its claims, and this article has been cited at least 76 times by other authors, which may indicate that it's an important article for the topic
  • Purpose: By clicking on the title of the journal, you'll see that it's peer-reviewed; reading the article will help determine bias

Would you feel comfortable using this article from the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology?

 

Popular magazine article record:

CRAAP - Popular.png

  • Currency: Highlighted in yellow next to "Source," you'll see the article was published in July 2013
  • Relevance: Reading the abstract and subjects, you can see that mental health options are only a minor part of this article and therefore may not be relevant;
  • Authority: The authors are hyper-linked and you can see what other topics they've written about; they do not have any institutional affiliation and appear to be staff writers
  • Accuracy: You will need to read the article to determine this; there are no cited references, which indicates that this article does not use evidence to support its story
  • Purpose: If you are not familiar with People, you can click on the title to determine that it's a popular magazine with short news pieces

Would you feel comfortable using this article from People?

The CRAAP Test has 5 criteria that work together. Some criteria will be more important than others depending upon your assignment. In the example above, the scholarly article was from 1991, but the popular article was from 2013. In this case, the other criteria of the CRAAP Test outweigh the articles' currency. Although the CRAAP Test is a great tool for evaluation, you should always read your assignment carefully. Often times your instructor will require certain types of sources. Make sure you're meeting the assignment requirements!