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Evaluate Sources

Why do I need to evaluate my sources?

Never has it been easier to find information! One quick search on Google, and you have sources for your research. Or do you?

Before you start citing, you'll want to evaluate each source. Evaluating sources helps lend credibility to your arguments, and all sources, even if they're from the library, need to be evaluated to ensure that they're right for the work you're doing. For example, the library has newspapers, and newspapers have opinion pieces and editorials. These might be acceptable resources if you're reviewing opinions about a topic, but they are unreliable sources to cite as facts.

How do I evaluate sources?

What is the CRAAP method?

CRAAP is a humorous and attention-grabbing acronym for a real thing! (We didn't make it up.) Use the CRAAP method to determine if a source is a good choice to use in your research. Ask yourself the questions below to evaluate the currency, relevancy, accuracy, authority, and purpose of any source.

CURRENCY: The timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

RELEVANCE: The importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • 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?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

ACCURACY: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information

  • Where does the information originate?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been peer-reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there any spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?

AUTHORITY: The source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

PURPOSE: The reason the information exists

  • Does the tone of the text suggest anything about the author's/sponsor's reason for sharing this information?
  • If so, what is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Evaluating Websites

Are you thinking about using an article that you found on the web outside of the library? There are great resources available on the web, but in addition to the CRAAP method questions, there are a few others that you need to ask yourself:

What's in a name: Evaluate the URL.

  • What is the domain (website address)?
  • Who published the site?
  • Does the header or footer (or a watermark or wallpaper) show the page's affiliation with a larger website?
  • Is there a link to the homepage?
  • Is there a link to send a message to the webmaster?

Around the edges: Scan the perimeter of the page.

  • Is there a "last updated" or "last modified" date on the page to find the page's currency?
  • Does the site offer more information through "About Us" or "Philosophy" links (for organizations) or "Background" or "Biography" links (for individuals)?
  • Can't find information about the author on the page? Use an Internet search engine to find out about them elsewhere.

Quality matters: Evaluate the quality of the information.

  • Can the material on the site be corroborated elsewhere?
  • Are there links to other resources, footnotes, or bibliographies? Do they add credibility or authority to the material? Are they current?
  • If there are advertisements on the page, are they clearly differentiated from the content?

Ask Us!

Have a question or need help?

Is the article peer-reviewed?

If an article is from a peer-reviewed journal, that's a good indication that it has a high level of accuracy and authority. Check out our guide on locating peer-reviewed materials:

Parts of a Research Article


Wikipedia may be a convenient source for quick information, and it's also useful for finding other references on a topic. However, it's not a reliable source for academic research. Wikipedia allows anyone to edit an entry and, by its own admission, is written largely by amateurs.