Evaluating Source Information

CRAAP Analysis

One excellent tool to examine both the suitability and trustworthiness of a source is the CRAAP method, which stands for:

  • Currency: the timeliness of the information
  • Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
  • Authority: the source of the information
  • Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information
  • Purpose: the reason the information exists

The following video offers a good explanation of these points of analysis.

Currency: The Timeliness of the Information

Key Question: When was the item of information published or produced?

Determining when an item of information was published or produced is an aspect of evaluating information. The date the information was published or produced tells you how current it is or how relevant it is to the topic you are researching. For example, if you were writing a research report on the survival of passengers in car crashes, you would need the most recent information on automobile crash tests, structural strength of materials, car wreck mortality statistics, etc. If, on the other hand, you were writing a report on the changes in company culture in the past 20 years, you would need interviews from workers who worked at different time periods (primary sources) as well as appropriate historical and current documents that reflect the company’s orientation (secondary sources). Key indicators of the currency of the information are:

  • date of copyright
  • date of publication
  • date of revision or edition
  • dates of sources cited
  • date of patent or trademark

Relevance: The Importance of the Information for Your Needs

Key Question: How does this source contribute to my communication?

When you read through your source, consider how the source will effectively support your main idea or argument and how you can use the source in your communication. You should also consider whether the source provides sufficient coverage of the topic. Information sources with broad, shallow coverage mean that you need to find other sources of information to obtain adequate details about your topic. Information sources with a very narrow focus or a distinct bias mean that you need to find additional sources to obtain the information on other aspects of your topic. Some questions to consider are:

  • Does the information relate to my topic, research question, and/or purpose?
  • Who is the source’s intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (e.g., not too simple or advanced) for my needs?
  • Did I look at a variety of sources before deciding to use this one?

Authority: The Source of the Information

Key Question: Is the person, organization, or institution responsible for the intellectual content of the information knowledgeable in that subject?

Determining the knowledge and expertise of the author is an important aspect of evaluating the reliability of information. Anyone can make an assertion or a statement about some thing, event, or idea, but only someone who knows or understands what that thing, event, or idea is can make a reasonably reliable assertion about it. Some external indications of expertise are:

  • a formal academic degree in a subject area
  • professional or work-related experience, e.g., businessmen, government agency personnel, sports figures, etc. have expertise in their areas of work
  • active involvement in a subject or organization by serious amateurs who spend substantial amounts of personal time researching and studying that subject area
  • organizations, agencies, institutions, corporations with active involvement or work in a particular subject area.
HINT: Be careful of opinions stated by professionals outside of their area of work expertise.

Accuracy: The Reliability, Truthfulness, and Correctness of the Information

Key Question: How free from error is this piece of information?

Establishing the accuracy, or relative accuracy, of information is an important part of evaluating the reliability of information. It is easier to establish the accuracy of facts than it is opinions, interpretations, or ideas. The more an idea, opinion, or other piece of information varies from the accepted point of view on a particular topic, the harder it is to establish its accuracy. An important aspect of accuracy is the intellectual integrity of the item:

  • Are the sources appropriately cited in the text and listed in the references?
  • Are quotations cited correctly and in context? Out-of-context quotations can be misleading and sometimes completely erroneous.
  • Are there exaggerations, omissions, or errors? These are difficulty to identify if you use only one source of information, so always use several different sources of information. Analyzing what different sources say about a topic is one way to determine exaggerations, omissions, and errors.

In addition to errors of fact and integrity, you need to watch for errors of logic. Errors of logic occur primarily in the presentation of conclusions, opinions, interpretations, editorials, ideas, etc. Some indications that information is accurate are:

  • the same information can be found in other reliable sources
  • the experiment can be replicated and returns the same results
  • the documentation provided in support of the information is substantive
  • the sources used for documentation are generally reliable
  • the author of the information is known to have expertise on that subject
  • the presentation is free from logical fallacies or errors
  • quotations are “in context” so that the intended meaning of the information quoted is retained
  • quotations, paraphrases, and summaries are correctly cited

Some indications that information may not be accurate are:

  • facts cannot be verified or are contradicted in other sources
  • sources used are known to be unreliable or highly biased
  • bibliography of sources used is inadequate or non-existent
  • quotations are taken out of context and given a different meaning
  • presence of one or more logical fallacies
  • authority cited is another part of the same organization

Purpose: The Reason the Information Exists

Key Question: Who is this information written for, and what is the author’s purpose?

Identifying the intended audience of the information and identifying the author’s purpose are other important aspects of evaluating information. The intended audience of an item generally determines the style of presentation, the level of technical detail, and the depth of coverage. Determining the intended audience of a particular piece of information will help you decide whether or not the information is too basic, too technical, too general, or just right for your needs. The intended audience can also indicate the potential reliability of the item because some audiences require more documentation than others. For example, items produced for scholarly or professional audiences are generally produced by experts and go through a peer review process. Items produced for the mass market frequently are not produced by experts and generally do not go through an evaluation process. Some indications of the intended audience are:

  • highly technical language, complex analysis, very sophisticated/technical tools can indicate a technical or professional audience
  • how-to information or current practices in “X” are frequently written by experts for practitioners in that field
  • substantive and serious presentations of a topic with not too much technical language are generally written for the educated lay audience
  • popular language, fairly simple presentations of a topic, with little or no analysis, can indicate a general or popular audience
  • bibliographies, especially long bibliographies, are generally compiled by and for those doing research on that topic

You should also consider the author’s purpose. Is the information intended to inform or persuade? Does the author intend to present a bias? While it is unlikely that anything humans do is ever absolutely objective, it is important to establish that the information you intend to use is reasonably objective, or if it is not, to establish exactly what the point of view or bias is. There are times when information expressing a particular point of view or bias is useful, but you must use it consciously. You must know what the point of view is and why that point of view is important to your project.

The CRAAP Test

Review the steps of the CRAAP method and practice evaluating sources in this tutorial from Eastern Michigan University.

Screenshot of the Tutorial, with an introduction to the CRAAP test.

Be sure to complete the practice exercises at the end of the tutorial. (You may also access the tutorial and activity in a text format.)

Evaluating Websites

While CRAAP method is one fabulous tool for assessing the credibility and reliability of sources, there are some other things you may want to consider when investigating a website:

Web chart of the "Web Site Evaluation Process" with 6 circles surrounding the evaluation process: Purpose---advocate or inform? Author credentials? Content-biased or balanced? Coverage of topic adequate? Current Information? Site recognized by others?


  • Who is providing the information?
  • What do you know about him/her and his/her credentials?
  • Is he/she an expert?
  • Can you find out more and contact him/her?
  • Search for author or publisher in search engine. Has the author written several publications on the topic?
  • Does the author support the information with works cited or links to other sources?


  • Is there a sponsor or affiliation?
  • Who is linking to the page?
  • Do they take responsibility for the content?


  • Does the organization or author indicate there will be bias?
  • Is the purpose of the website to inform or to spread an agenda?
  • Is there an About link?
  • Is the site personal, commercial, governmental, organizational, or educational? (.com, .gov, .org, .edu)
  • Are there ads? Are they trying to make money?
  • Why did they write the article?
  • Is the site a content farm? A content farm is a site whose content has been generated by teams of low-paid freelancers who write large amounts of text to raise the site’s search engine rankings.


  • Copy and paste a sentence into Google to see if the text can be found elsewhere.
  • Are there links to related sites? Are they organized?
  • Are there citations or a bibliography provided?


  • When was the source last updated?
  • Does the source even have a date?


  • Is the source professional?
  • Does it seem like current design?
  • Is the website user-friendly?
  • What kinds of images are used?
  • Is the navigation menu well-labeled?
  • Are there spelling or grammar errors?
  • Do the pages appear uncluttered?
  • Are there ads or pop-ups on the page?
  • Are links working?


  • Was it reproduced? If so, from where? Type a sentence in Google to verify.
  • If it was reproduced, was it done so with permission? Copyright/disclaimer included?

Keep in mind that everything is written from a particular social, cultural, and political perspective. Realize that some publications tend to be ‘slanted’ towards a certain viewpoint. For example, the CATO Institute is known for being libertarian, while The Nation is known to lean left. Keep these slants in mind when you are researching.


Try evaluating some of your favorite websites using this Website Evaluator tool from Imagine Easy Academy http://webeval.easybib.com/