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ENG 100: College Reading and Learning Strategies

Stephanie Gelderloos

Evaluate Your Sources: The CRAAP Method

Knowing where information is coming from, who wrote it, and why they wrote it, is an important step in doing research. When you find a new source of information, especially on the Internet, ask yourself the following questions.


Currency

  • Does your topic require current information?
    • How current sources needed to be often depends on your field. Up-to-date sources are appropriate for fields like medicine or technology, while humanities subjects like history or literature can include older and primary sources.
  • When was this material published or put on the Internet?
  • Are there links within the website that are dead?
  • Is the website maintained and updated? The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine can often show changes to specific websites over time.

Relevance

  • How does the information relate to your topic? 
  • Is the article focused on one topic or does it discuss many topics?
  • Does it support or complicate your point?
  • Does it supply background or context for your thesis?
  • Who is the intended audience of your project and the source you are evaluating? Is the source too technical or too simplified? 
  • Does it give a particular method to follow?

See the I-BEAM schema for more suggestions.


Authority

  • Authority can change based on how you are using a source as well as an author's qualifications or lived experiences.
  • What are the author's qualifications?
    • What level of education do they have?
    • What other research has this person done?
    • What is this person's reputation?
    • Are they part of the community they are writing about or studying?
  • Who or what organization published this material?
  • Can the author be contacted if you have questions?
  • What organization is sponsoring the website? Often, you can check to see who owns a site through an IP lookup service like WHOIS.

Accuracy

  • Can you verify the accuracy of the information?
  • Is there a bibliography or links to other sources used by the author?
  • Is information cited properly?
  • Does the author cite themselves repeatedly or do they refer to a variety of other authors?
  • Has the article been peer-reviewed?
  • Has the article been retracted or corrected?
  • Do your sources agree or disagree with each other and any consensuses or best practices in your field?
  • Is the information written well?  i.e., spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.

Purpose

  • What is the purpose of this source?
    • Is it to inform, entertain, persuade, or sell a product?
    • Is it original research?
    • It is commenting or summarizing others' work exclusively?
  • Is the information intended for a specific audience (everyone, someone working in the field, scholars, etc.)?
    • Is the intended audience useful/appropriate for your research?
  • Is information presented objectively or does it have a bias?
    • If it has a bias (e.g., a specific political or philosophical point of view) does that detract from the usefulness to you?
    • Are there alternative perspectives represented?
  • Does the author belong to or the website for a non-profit organization, a political party, or in support of a cause?
    • For websites, look at the end of the web address (URL) for the domain name, .com is for companies who might be trying to sell something, .gov is for government websites, and .org is usually for non-profit groups who often have a very specific point of view.

Although this list of questions is not exhaustive, do you feel confident that the information presented on the website you are evaluating is of use for you and your research?

What is peer review?

Peer review is the process in which a scholar's work is reviewed by experts in a field before being accepted for publication (in the case of journals). Many people give more credence to journal articles that have gone through a peer review process because they have been reviewed by experts in the field (rather than just an editor as is the case of a newspaper or magazine) before being accepted for publication.

For more information on peer reviewed journals, please see the following guide and video tutorials:

Integrate Your Sources: The I-BEAM Schema

You have found sources you want to use in a paper or project, but how do you use them well? How does the source fit into the structure of your paper? Think about how each of your sources could add to your project with the following I-BEAM schema.


Instance: Why is your work important? How does it relate to other research in your field?

Background: Does the source present information or establish facts?

Exhibit: Are you interpreting or analyzing the source? Are you using it as an example?

Argument: Do you agree or disagree with the author’s claims? Are you building on their research?

Method: Does the source introduce a key term or theory? Are you using a particular procedure?


Original articles: