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The CRAAP Method of Evaluating Credibility

You know that it’s important to evaluate for credibility, but it’s equally important to evaluate all the sources you use in relation to your research.

Not sure where to start? Try this acronym developed by California State University, Chico:

CRAAP

In other words:

  • C – Currency
  • R – Relevance
  • A – Authority
  • A – Accuracy
  • P – Purpose

It’s a funny word that helps you remember important characteristics to consider when evaluating any source you find—online or in print. For those working with younger students, you may consider reversing it to be PAARC instead.

Each letter represents a different criteria:

Currency

When was the source published? Does the date of publication impact the credibility of your assignment or the information? If a website, when was it last updated and do all of the links still work?

EXAMPLE:

Willis, Paul, and Jimmy Chan. Dinosaurs. Reader’s Digest Children’s, 1999.

https://www.worldcat.org/title/dinosaurs/oclc/51883343

Paleontology is a field that is constantly evolving. This book was probably a great resource when it came out in 1999, but it’s been over a decade since it was published. In that time, some theories and information has changed (for example, some dinosaurs are now pictured with feathers), and new dinosaurs have been discovered. This book does not provide the most current information available.

Relevance

Is the information relevant to your topic? Does it relate to your thesis statement? Is the tone or level of the information appropriate for your research project?

EXAMPLE:

Break-Dancing to Tchaikovsky in the Hip-Hop Nutcracker

https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/511136/break-dancing-to-tchaikovsky-in-the-hip-hop-nutcracker/

This video would be great if you are doing a project on hip hop in today’s culture, or modern takes on classic stories or dances. However, if you were doing an academic paper on Tchaikovsky and his writing of The Nutcracker, this video would not be helpful as it does not discuss Tchaikovsky and is not academic in tone.

Authority

Can you determine who the author is and their expertise, education, or credentials? Can you find contact information for the author? Are they capable of writing about the topic objectively and accurately? Is it from an authoritative or credible source or publisher? For students: Is this a source recommended to you by a teacher or librarian?

EXAMPLE:

Want a Self-Driving Car? California Considers Public Use

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c1074bc59ad9413c9f54ba071c04691a/want-self-driving-car-regulators-consider-public-use

This article is from the Associated Press which is a reputable source. The author, Justin Pritchard, is also clearly stated and there is a link to his past and recent work which includes other articles on the main topic; this means he is currently an active writer and that he can be contacted. The article’s author and publisher have authority.

Accuracy

Can you verify or confirm that the information is accurate? Are there other sources that support the information, or even reference the article? Is the author’s language free of emotion and bias? Is the source comprehensive and tell the whole story? Is the writing free of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? Has it been reviewed by others?

EXAMPLE:

The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/

On first glance, the website may seem somewhat accurate since it has convincing images, links to research, and clear writing. However, the title of the page indicates that there is bias in this article. An examination of the “research” linked on the site leads to other articles by the same author and website meaning that other sources are not verifying the information. Finally, a quick search of the term Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus results in many articles that discuss how this website is a hoax. This website is not accurate.

Purpose

Does the source inform the reader? Why did they write the information? Are they trying to sell you something, or promote an agenda?

EXAMPLE:

1 in 4 D.C. Children Can’t Access Affordable, Nutritious Food. This Has to Change.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/1-in-4-dc-children-cant-access-affordable-nutritious-food-this-has-to-change/2016/12/08/411acb9e-b8d0-11e6-959c-172c82123976_story.html

Immediately, you can tell from the article title that the author is trying to persuade readers of a certain viewpoint. Also, the article is clearly marked as “Opinion” by the publisher so that you know this is an editorial piece. This article might be a good place to start looking for information on affordable food for children, but not the sole source you should use.

Conclusion

Here is the CRAAP acronym one last time to help you remember it:

  • C – Currency
  • R – Relevance
  • A – Authority
  • A – Accuracy
  • P – Purpose