The CRAAP Test: An Easy & Fun Way to Evaluate Research Sources

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Kendra Perkins is the Coordinator for the Shanghai Librarian Network, the International Librarian Network Ambassador for China and Head Librarian at YK Pao Secondary School in China. For more inspiration, check out her blog.

 

What is the CRAAP Test & How can I use it?

It’s common knowledge that that the Internet can be a powerful source of information however, on the flipside, it can also be a powerful unreliable source of information. Students and fellow researchers nowadays need to learn how to use critical thinking skills to evaluate resources to ensure that they are selecting trustworthy data. The CRAAP test [1] is one way to easily achieve this.

CRAAP.001There are many ways to evaluate sources, but (for obvious reasons) the CRAAP test is the easiest to remember. University students will remember its funny name so hopefully this is an approach that resonates as each letter’s meaning is highly relevant.

So, what does it mean?

Currency – Is the information you want to use still relevant?

One may assume that any information published by well-known authors, such as Ivy league institutions e.g. Harvard University, MIT, or the University of California at Berkeley is correct but it is equally important to check when it was published.

Take this example:

Remember when Pluto was a planet? What is it now? [2]

Relevance – Is the information you’ve discovered about what you are researching?

There are so many aspects that can be studied about one topic. You want to make sure that you are keeping your focus on exactly what your research question is asking for.

If you are researching farming, you could look at the economics, the agriculture, the biology, the genetics, the chemistry, the history, the geography, the sociology, or even the fashion side of farming.

Are you picking a source that is relevant to what you are trying to answer?

AuthorityWho is telling you this information?

Reputable newspapers, like The New York Times, are usually reliable sources, but not always!

Opinion pieces, for example, are just that – opinions [3]. Most major magazines and newspapers have these, and they aren’t necessarily backed up by facts, or research. Be careful that what they are stating can be verified by other sources that have done studies to confirm these findings.

Consider who is responsible for the content, not just who the source of the information is.

Accuracy – Do you think the information is correct?

You need to take a minute to evaluate what you are reading. Even if the author sounds convincing and the information is published in a book, does it seem plausible?

For example:

The published book Zetetic Astronomy: Earth not a Globe! An Experimental Inquiry into the True Figure of the Earth: Proving it a Plane, without Axial or Orbital Motion and the Only Material World in the Universe! [4] argues that the Earth is not rotating, but that it is on a plane (flat) and brings forth multiple arguments that justify this reasoning. There are websites that are dedicated to publishing materials and writing posts arguing that the Earth is flat [5]. It all sounds very convincing, but science have proven this to be untrue. The world is indeed not flat. Be careful not to get sucked into false claims! Read contradictory evidence to ensure that your sources are correct.

PurposeWhy was this information created?

This can be a tricky one to investigate, but it is important to check who is responsible for this information. Do they have another motive to come to a particular conclusion?

What is a native ad? This could appear to be a research article, but in fact the author is being paid, or is in some way affiliated with the corporation that produces that product [6]. They will have a huge bias in the information that they put out because they want you to support whatever it is they are promoting.

There are so many examples of this, but here is one example to show you what I mean:

native-advertising-examples-forbes-brandvoiceArticles are sometimes written to promote specific products and are paid to do so. In this example Forbes magazine is promoting financial institutions, like Fidelity Investments by writing convincing articles about these products that sound like they are just opinion pieces.

In Closing…

Today, research is published and accessed at a much faster pace than ever before. The sheer volume of content available, and the pressure for publishers, websites and writers to push out information at increasing rates is on the rise. This leads to a massive amount of unreliable articles and books that students and researchers need to wade through. Educators can use this CRAAP test as a tool to help students identify reliable sources and then accurately and easily reference them.

This blog could be filled with inaccurate information, but I have referenced all of my sources using RefME, so you can easily fact check the content and decide for yourself if you think it would pass the CRAAP test.

CRAAP Resources for Educators

Some of my favourite handouts, activity ideas, and a video that could all be used in your next lesson:

Evaluating Websites Activity Handout – University of Arizona Libraries

Searching Tips + Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test Handout – University of Arizona Libraries

Websites not to Use for Research Handout – Central Texas College

Video Explaining The CRAAP Test – DCAD Library

Bibliography

1. ‘CRAAP Method of Resource Evaluation – MMA Media Resource Center’. 2015. Accessed March 6, 2016.

2. ‘What Is Pluto?’. May 21, 2015. Accessed March 6, 2016.

3. The Opinion PagesThe New York Times. March 4, 2016.

4. Parallax. Zetetitc Astronomy. Earth Not a Globe! An Experimental Inquiry into the True Figure of the Earth: Proving it a Plane without Axial or Orbital Motion and the Only Material World in the Universe! London, 1865. Accessed March 6, 2016.

5. The Flat Earth Society. ‘Flat Earth Library – Web Articles’. Accessed March 6, 2016.

6. Shewan, Dan. ‘Native Advertising Examples: 5 of the Best (and Worst)’. July 7, 2014. Accessed March 6, 2016.

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