Use the CRAAP test to evaluate the resources you find in print and on the web. The CRAAP test was created by the Merriam Library, California State University, Chico.
The CRAAP test is a way to evaluate a source based on the following criteria: Currency, Reliability, Accuracy, Authority, and Purpose/Point of View. Below are some questions to help you think about how to measure each of the criteria. These criteria can be applied to print and web resources. Print resources are subject to editorial checks and are therefore more reliable than web resources which are not checked to the same degree.
When was the information published or posted? Check the copyright on a book - this is usually found at the bottom of the cover page under the publisher's name or at the back of the cover page. On a web page, check for a date that the document was created or revised or updated. Do not use information from a page that is not dated. If no date is given in an electronic document, view the directory in which it resides to see when the document was last modified.
Is the information current enough for your research? If it is a time-sensitive topic, you need to find the most recent information.
Note: In fields like science and medicine, it is important to find current information. In fields like literature, the most valuable sources are not necessarily the most recent sources.
Will the information be useful for your topic? Is it closely related to the topic? Does it meet the requirements of your instructor? Is it appropriate for college level work or is it too elementary?
Who is the intended audience? Is this written for the general public, or is it too specialized? While general sources help you understand the basics, you will need to rely on more specialized resources for your paper. However, sources that are too specialized may sometimes be difficult to understand.
What kind of information is included in the source? Will you be able to find better information elsewhere?
Check book reviews to get the answers to most of the questions above. Book reviews can be obtained by searching Book Index with Reviews or Books in Print or any of the library's newspaper and general databases. For a web page, you will need to rely on the comments of other readers and the number of times the source has been used by others. Check Google or Yahoo for this information.
Is the information accurate? It's a good idea to check the information against other sources on the topic to make sure it is accurate.
Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
What was the source of the information? Where did it come from? Look for indications of quality. Check the references at the back of the book or at the end of the journal article to see the kinds of sources the author consulted. In a web page, examine all documentation. Are there links to other sources? Do these links work?
Has the source been cited by others? For books or journal articles, Google Scholar does a good job of letting you know how many times a source has been cited by others. You can also check the number of times an author or source has been cited in the Arts and Humanities Citation Index.
Who is the author of the source? Is the author from an academic institution?
Is the author an expert on the topic? In a book, you can check the author's credentials on the blurb that often appears on the inside cover or the back of the book. You can also try to find a biography of the author in library sources like Current Biography or Who's Who or in the library's newspaper and general databases. What are the author's stance on the issues?
If it's a web page, you need to determine if this is someone's personal page. A ~ or % sign in the URL usually indicates a personal web page. While personal pages do not always contain bad information, you must always verify the contents as personal pages do not have a sponsor or publisher to vouch for the information.
Who is the publisher of the source? Is the publisher reputable? If there is no publisher, is there a sponsor? Usually the publisher is the one that operates the server so check to see if the server is a commercial ISP or a provider that hosts web pages such as Geocities or aol.
Is there contact information for the author or publisher or sponsor such as e-mail address, phone number or postal address in case you need to contact the person for further information about the work.
Does the URL (if it is a web site) reveal anything about the author of the source? Is the source from an educational institution (edu), a commercial enterprise (com), an organization or association (org), government (gov) or a network service provider (net)? Usually sites from the government or an educational institution have more credibility than others.
What is the purpose of the information? To inform? To advertise? To sell? To persuade? To teach? To entertain? Book reviews may shed light on some of this information. For a web page, check to see if there are links like "About Us", "Philosophy", "Who we Are", "Background", "Biography", etc. as these links may tell you more about why the page exists.
Is it fact, opinion, or propaganda?
Is the information free from bias? Is it objective?
Are there any political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases evident?
For more information on why it is absolutely essential to evaluate information on the web, check this article, "Whales in the Minnesota River? Only on the Web, where skepticism is a required navigational aid", by Tina Kelley (New York Times, March 4, 1999; available online at http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/03/circuits/articles/04trut.html).