Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Plant Science: Evaluating Information

Evaluating Sources

Western University (2:16)

CRAAP Test

CRAAP Test by librarian Sarah Blakelee (2004), CSU Chico. 

The process of evaluating a source includes examining the source itself and examining other sources.

Use the CRAAP Test to help you determine if the sources you found are accurate and reliable. Keep in mind that the following list is not static or complete. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

* indicates criteria is for web sources only

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • 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 using this source for a research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail 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 informational 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 biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

PROVEN

P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation by librarian Ellen Carey (2018), Santa Barbara City College, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The process of evaluating a source includes examining the source itself and examining other sources by:

  • Checking for previous work. Has someone already fact-checked this source?
  • Finding the original source. Who originally published the information and why?
  • Reading laterally. What do other people say about this publication and author?
  • Circling back. How can you revise your original search to yield better results?
  • Checking your own emotions. Is your own bias affecting your evaluation?1

The questions below will help you think critically during the source evaluation process:

Purpose: How and why the source was created.

  • Why does this information exist?
    Why is it in this form (book, article, website, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience? 
  • Is the purpose clear?

Relevance: The value of the source for your needs.

  • How useful is this source in answering your question, supporting your argument, or adding to your knowledge?
  • Is the type and content of the source appropriate for your assignment?

Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information.

  • How thorough and balanced is this source?
  • Does it present fact or opinion?
  • How well do its creators acknowledge their point of view, represent other points of view fully, and critique them professionally?

Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information.

  • How well do the creators of this source support their information with factual evidence, identify and cite their sources, and accurately represent information from other sources? 
  • Can you find the original source(s) of the information or verify facts in other sources? 
  • What do experts say about the topic?

Expertise: The authority of the authors and the source. 

  • Who created this source and what education and/or professional or personal experience makes them authorities on the topic?
  • How was the source reviewed before publication?
  • Do other experts cite this source or otherwise acknowledge the authority of its creators?

Newness: The age of the information.

  • Does your topic require current information? 
  • How up-to-date is this source and the information within it? 

1Based on Caulfield, Mike. "Four Moves and a Habit." Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, 2017.

5 Ways to Spot Fake News

The News Literacy Project teaches children how to evaluate the credibility of information they get online (Quartz, 3:09).

Authority is Constructed & Contextual

Image says authority is constructed and contextual

Media Bias Chart

Chart with media sources and their bias