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AOM 30: Evaluating Information

A guide to resources in the Merced College Library.

Evaluation Guides

Evaluating Sources

Western University (2:16)



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  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?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?

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).

Beware Online "Filter Bubbles"

As web companies strive to tailor their services (including news and search results) to our personal tastes, there's a dangerous unintended consequence: We get trapped in a "filter bubble" and don't get exposed to information that could challenge or broaden our worldview. Eli Pariser argues powerfully that this will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy (Eli Pariser, TED Talk, 8:50).

Confirmation Bias: Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News?

Host Myles Bess breaks down the research around why our brains can so easily make us believe that fake news is real news (Above the Noise, 5:20).

Selecting Relevant Articles

University of West Florida, John C. Pace Library (4:48)

This video provides a graduated approach to how students might select relevant articles from a list of results. The four steps include reading the titles, reading the abstracts of the promising titles and downloading those articles, sorting the articles based on relevance, and then reading those articles. Use of the dating example works well for undergraduates. Because of the branding at the end of the video, it might not be great in a LibGuide; however, the instruction librarian can also show this video in class and/or talk about/demo these strategies with some other advice. The video has some library branding throughout, and the first part of the video is better than the latter half. Start the video at 0:02, and stop the video at 4:35 to skip over the majority of the library branding and specific library information.

  1. How do you decide which articles to look at from your results list?
  2. What are some strategies to help you select relevant articles from your results list?

Fake videos of real people -- and how to spot them | Supasorn Suwajanakorn

Do you think you're good at spotting fake videos, where famous people say things they've never said in real life? See how they're made in this astonishing talk and tech demo. Computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn shows how, as a grad student, he used AI and 3D modeling to create photorealistic fake videos of people synced to audio. Learn more about both the ethical implications and the creative possibilities of this tech -- and the steps being taken to fight against its misuse (TED, 3:15).

Not all scientific studies are created equal - David H. Schwartz


View full lesson: Not all scientific studies are created equal - David H. Schwartz. Every day, we are bombarded by attention grabbing headlines that promise miracle cures to all of our ailments -- often backed up by a "scientific study." But what are these studies, and how do we know if they are reliable? David H. Schwartz dissects two types of studies that scientists use, illuminating why you should always approach the claims with a critical eye. Lesson by David H. Schwartz, animation by Augenblick Studios.

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries (3:14)

  1. What words can be used to describe a credible source?
  2. What factors contribute to a source's credibility? 
  3. What warning is given about bias? 
  4. What is the editorial process called for academic journal articles? 
  5. When selecting sources, what else must you consider beyond credibility?


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.

Fact-Checking Sources

Media Bias Chart

Chart with media sources and their bias

Practice Safe Searching

Strategies to protect yourself from fake news

One Perfect Source?

North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries, 2:08



Reputable News Sources

  • publish accurate content; checks facts, and if errors are made, corrects them
  • use reputable sources (people, documentation) and verifies those sources
  • present headlines which accurately represent the article content; headlines don't play on readers' emotions
  • clearly identify authors of articles with bylines
  • produce their own content; don't merely aggregate content from other sources
  • clearly identify content types (e.g. report vs. editorial)
  • conduct reporting, not just editorializing
  • employ journalists who follow the profession's code of ethics

Sources to Help Determine Bias & Accuracy in Reporting

“False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources”

How to Choose Your News

How do we choose which news to consume? Get the scoop on how opinions and facts affect the news and how to tell them apart (Damon Brown, TED-Ed, 4:48)


5 Ways to Beat Confirmation Bias

"Confirmation bias” is probably something you’re familiar with —even if you weren’t aware of the term (Countable, 1:55).

Using Your Sources: The BEAM Research Model

This 3-minute video describes Joseph Bizup's BEAM research model: background, exhibit, argument, and method (Portland State University Library, 3:25).

How to Use a Source

BEAM ideas for what a writer can do with a source

Other Resources

Scientific Studies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

John Oliver discusses how and why media outlets so often report untrue or incomplete information as science (LastWeekTonight, 19:27).

Top 4 Tips to Spot Bad Science Reporting

Above the Noise (4:17)

Dr. Oz and Nutritional Supplements: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

LastWeekTonight (16:25)

John Oliver outlines what, exactly is problematic about Dr. Oz and the nutrition supplement industry. Then he invites George R.R. Martin, Steve Buscemi, the Black and Gold Marching Elite, and some fake real housewives on the show to illustrate how to pander to an audience without hurting anyone.