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Evaluating Sources: CRAAP test

Using the CRAAP test to evaluate sources

Evaluating Sources

It used to be that publishing your work was relatively difficult. Today anyone can publish their work or thoughts by creating a blog or website, or even self-publishing an entire book. This makes knowing how to evaluate a source increasingly important.

There are a number of ways to evaluate sources but most techniques address similar concerns. We recommend using the CRAAP test as it is an easy acronym to remember.

Currency - the timeliness of the source

Relevance - the ability of the source to meet your needs

Accuracy - the information within the source is correct

Authority - the qualifications of the author to write about a subject, and the reputation of the publisher or sponsor

Purpose - the reason the source was created

You can use the worksheet below to help determine the credibility of your source. Start by investigating the source you have. This is called Vertical Reading. You can probably answer many of the questions brought up by CRAAP doing this, such as currency or relevance, but not all of them. To really figure out if you have a good source, you should do some Lateral reading. This means you are going to explore outside of the source you are looking at. Sounds time consuming? It isn't really. All you need to do is open a few tabs on your browser. Can you corroborate any of the claims made in your source with other trusted and reliable sources (Accuracy)? Authority is also difficult to establish without searching outside of your source.

One technique incorporating lateral reading is called 4 moves and a habit. The Habit is to check yourself. What reaction are you having to this information? A lot of online content is designed to inflame emotion. If you are angry - why? If you think something is true, is it because it is what you want to hear? Continue with the 4 moves to figure out if this is a good source.

  1. Check for previous work - A quick internet search can let you know if the claims made have already been disputed. (Accuracy)
  2. Go Upstream - This is when the article is discussing other research. Go back to the original source. Does your source interpret what happened correctly? (Accuracy)
  3. Read laterally -  what are other people saying about the author, platform or publisher? Are they an expert in this area or might they have a vested interest in the claims made? (Authority & Purpose)
  4. Circle back - If you find yourself hitting deadends or falling too far off topic, Stop. Back up and think about how to re-frame your search.

Another acronym was developed for 4 moves and a habit. You may find SIFT easier to remember.

  • Stop and think - what do you already know about this subject? Check your emotional response. (Habit)
  • Investigate the source - Does the author (or platform) have an agenda or reason to put out this information? (Lateral reading)
  • Find trusted or better coverage - do other reputable sources agree or disagree on the claim made? (checking previous work)
  • Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context - Is the image used from where and when it said it was? Did this person quoted, really say that or was the comment taken out of context? (going upstream)

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