How to Write a Research Paper: Evaluate Sources

A step-by-step guide.

Oh, CRAAP!

Whenever you use information, you need to evaluate it.  The CRAAP method will help you do this.  

For web pages, you'll also want to pay attention to the domain,  found at the end of the URL. Domains can provide some information on the provider, as well as the purpose. For example, organizational domains (.org)  usually exist to present their point of view, or to persuade you. Examples of .org domains:  NRA, Right to Life.  Commercial domains (.com) exist to provide a service or a product.  Other domains: .edu, .mil, .net, .gov.

C   Currency

  • When was the information published?  When was it updated?
  • Are links up to date?  Are references to other sources current?
  • Have newer articles on your topic been published?
  • Does your topic require very current information (for example, technology medicine, popular culture)?

R   Relevance   

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Does the information meet your assignment's requirements?
  • Is the information too technical?   Is it too simplified?
  • Does it add something new to your knowledge?

A   Accuracy

  • Is the information accurate?  Are there inaccuracies?  False information?
  • Are spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors?
  • Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published? (i.e referred or peer-reviewed)
  • Are there other citations or references that support the author’s claims?
  • What do other people have to say about the topic?

A   Authoritativeness

  • What are the author’s credentials or qualifications?
  • Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or a prominent organization?
  • Can you find information about the author from reference sources or the Internet?
  • Do other books or authors cite the author?

  Purpose

  • Is the author’s purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform?
  • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
  • Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove the claim?
  • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

Source:  The CRAAP test was developed by the librarians at Meriam Library, California State University at Chico.  Used with permission.