Not all sources should be treated equally. It’s important for students to identify and use information from reputable sources when conducting research. Determining the validity of a source however can be a challenge, especially when dealing with information obtained from the internet. To help weigh the credibility of a source, students can use the CRAAP test13.
First developed by the California State University, Chico library, CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose. Students should answer questions regarding each category of criteria to determine whether a source should be used. Examples of questions that are recommended as part of the CRAAP test are outlined below14:
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 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?
The CRAAP method recommends that users apply a point system to reach a conclusion regarding the validity of a source. Each of the 5 categories can receive up to 10 points with the total possible points being 50. A score of 45‐50 points in considered an excellent source, 40‐ 44 is considered good, 35‐39 is average, 30‐34 is borderline acceptable and below 29 is considered unacceptable. It is recommended that research students review the CRAAP criteria to gain an understanding of the elements that make up a reputable source.