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Health Information Management: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources: The CRAAP Test

Whether you’re writing a research paper, purchasing a product or casting your vote, it is up to you to carefully evaluate information sources. One helpful evaluation tool is the CRAAP test, developed by Sarah Blakeslee at CSU Chico, and revised with her permission by NWACC Library. Print-friendly version

C CURRENCY:  Consider the timeliness of the information you encounter, when it was published or produced.
●  If it’s an older source, is it outdated?  Or is it timeless? Find out whether the information has historical value.
●  Determine whether there have been important discoveries or developments related to the topic since the resource was created.
●  Check to see if and when the source itself was updated or revised. If you’re evaluating a website, test links to ensure they are still working. 
R RELEVANCE:  Think about how well the source fits your needs.
●  Does it answer your question? Does it provide information directly related to your topic?
●  Consider the uniqueness, depth and breadth of the information covered; does its treatment of the subject fit your needs?
●  If you’re writing a research paper, make sure you can use the resource to develop, emphasize, support or critique your ideas.
●  Pay attention to the source’s intended audience. In other words, make sure it is neither too advanced nor too simple to suit your purpose.

AUTHORITYQuestion the source of the information. In other words, who wrote, produced, funded or published it?
●  Determine whether the author is an individual, group, non-profit organization, commercial enterprise or government office.
●  Is there enough information about the author—such as her education, experience, or professional affiliations—to gauge her subject expertise?
●  Is the author/organization/publisher respected by other experts in the field?  
●  Is the content dynamic? In other words, if someone else views the same source later, might the content be altered?
●  Consider issues of editorial control, including the review process involved before the resource is published or updates are posted.
●  For websites, think about whether the URL domain (such as .edu, .gov, .com, .org, etc.) indicates anything useful about the source.

A ACCURACY: Assess how reliable the information is.
●  Is there sufficient evidence to back the author’s claims? Do the arguments or assertions stem from fact-based and logical analysis?
●  Can the information be verified by other reputable sources? Make sure the author cited his sources so you can evaluate their merit.
●  Was the source peer-reviewed or refereed; that is, have reputable experts in the field formally approved the content or research methods? 
●  Look for examples of plagiarism, exaggeration, prejudice or bias in the source. Does the author jump to conclusions too quickly?
●  Does the author acknowledge and fairly assess alternate perspectives and possibilities? Watch out for simplistic yes/no and either/or thinking.
●  Consider the quality of the writing itself; punctuation, spelling and grammatical errors are red flags.
P PURPOSE: Determine why the information is presented.
●  Was the source created to educate, inform, entertain, or persuade or the audience?
●  Look for evidence of commercial, political, religious or other motivations. (Hint: Check whether advertisements are clearly labeled.)
●  Consider how upfront the author is about her reasons for creating the source. 

A word of caution: There is potential for error, distortion, and bias in any source. Respected experts disagree with their peers, new discoveries call once-established “facts” into question, and widely-accepted theories are later proven false. It can be both useful and necessary to engage with sources that do not pass the CRAAP test, especially if you think critically about the source and address its limitations. So keep an open mind, acknowledge uncertainty, practice skepticism, stay informed about new developments, and seek understanding of multiple perspectives related to the subjects and ideas that matter to you. 

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