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STS 325: Highway to History: Online Resources

Evaluating Sources: the CRAAP test

What kind of information is available online? How do you find it? How do you tell if it's good or not? And what does it mean to be 'good' information?

Let's look at two websites relating to the automobile and its history: ONE and TWO. Both were found through a simple Google search. What are the differences between these? Would you use them for research?

You must think critically about online resources. One tool you have at your disposal: the CRAAP test! You can use the questions below to evaluate information that you find online. Use the CRAAP test as part of your process of searching for information. As you search and locate information online, ask yourself:

What is this? What kind of information can I get from it? How can this help me in my research process? 

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  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?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? Does it fit within the guidelines of your project?
  • Who is the intended audience for this source? 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?
  • How would this fit into your research? Does it back up what you’ve already found, or provide new material?
  • What approach does the author use? Historical? Philosophical? Sociological?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/ source/sponsor?
  • What is their expertise--denoted by degrees received, titles held, professional affiliations, years of activity in a field, publication history?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Who is making the information available? Is it a formal publisher, or a personal web site?
  • If it is formal, is it a commercial publishing houses like Macmillan, Time/Warner, or Knopf?
  • Is it a university press, like Oxford University Press or Michigan State University Press?
  • Is it published by a government or intergovernmental body?
  • If it’s a website, does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence? Is it documented and cited properly?
  • 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 presented as fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Online Resources

Google Searching Tips

  • Look for clues in the URL: .gov, .org, .edu;
  • When in doubt, go back to the primary page to find out more ( out the mainpage to see what it's about);
  • When searching, try including the name of a well-known organization or museum, such as the Smithsonian;
  • Evaluate, Trust...Verify: once you've evaluated information and decided that it's probably trustworthy, it's a good idea to verify facts and dates through other sources.