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Comp 132 (Bost): Evaluating

Evaluating Sources

As you deal with sources, you will need to look at them with a critical eye and determine whether they are reliable and relevant

Reliable: Can the author and the type of source be trusted to provide good information?

Relevant: Is the source appropriate for your project?  Does it help you answer your research question?

The CRAAP Test

"Are your sources credible and useful, or are they a bunch of...?"

The CRAAP test is a list of questions to help you evaluate sources. This test was developed by librarians at CSU-Chico. CRAAP stands for: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose. 

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? 
  • (for Web sources only) 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 one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • (for Web sources only) Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization)

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 other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • What are the author's political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?


Additional notes on Web sources

Difference between Library Databases and the Rest of the Internet

Unlike the Internet, most print sources have gone through some evaluation before they have been published. Most of the sources accessed through the library's homepage are electronic versions of print sources. The full-text articles one finds through the library's databases are the same as the articles found in the printed journal or magazine. So, although many of the library's resources can be accessed through the Internet, it is not the Internet per se. You still needs to evaluate the sources you find through the library's databases, but you can treat them as you would print resources.

Evaluating the Internet

Evaluating Internet sources is harder then evaluating print resources. This is true for several reasons:

  1. Because anyone can put up an Internet site, it is harder to know who is the author of the source and what his/her credentials are
  2. Internet sources are much more fluid - the information they provide can change in an instant
  3. Often the content has not been evaluated before it is posted on the Internet

Therefore, you need to take extra precaution when using information found on the Internet. There is a lot of very good information located on the Internet, but there is also some suspect information. You need to be able to judge the information you find and tell the difference between the good and the bad.