Toolkit for Searching for Research Information
Step 5: Evaluate for Quality

Step 5: Evaluate for Quality

Key Points

  • Always evaluate information you find.
  • CRAAP Evaluation Checklist is an evaluation tool to help you identify the best online results.
  • CRAAP is an acronym that stands for: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose.

Evaluation is the most important step in your research. You will always find information, regardless of how you search. The main goal is to see if the information you found can be trusted, if it is reliable.

To help you with this task, use the CRAAP Evaluation Checklist. CRAAP stands for: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. It was developed to evaluate information found online (as opposed to academic research). You can use the CRAAP checklist when evaluating any piece of information, from tweets to online encyclopedia articles.

CRAAP: Currency

When checking for currency, look for the publication date of the information you are considering or when it was last updated. Answer the following questions:

  1. When was the information published? (journal articles)
  2. When was the content posted? (websites, blogs, online content)
  3. Is the information up to date?
  4. When was the content last updated?
  5. Are links to internal and external pages working?
  6. Does the information you are researching need the most recent publications? (Or can you use older publications as well?)

CRAAP: Relevance

Relevance considers the importance of the information you found, as related to your search. When checking for relevance, answer the following questions:

  1. Is the information on exactly the topic you are researching?
  2. Does the information answer your question?
  3. Who was the content written for? Who is the “audience”?
  4. Is the content written at an appropriate level? For example, if you are working with a young client, can they read and understand the information or is it too academic? Alternatively, if you are doing your own research, is the information too simplistic?

CRAAP: Authority

Authority helps you find out who wrote or published what you are reading. Is the person an expert or are they a student blogger? The following questions will help you decide whether the information holds authority:

  1. Who is the author?

    Look for the person’s or organization’s name.

  2. Can you find the author’s credentials and professional affiliation?

    Is the author an employed medical practitioner or a concerned parent?

  3. Is the author qualified to write about the topic?

    Is the person who wrote the content an expert or an occasional blogger? Look for this information in the About section of a website/blog.

  4. Is the author’s contact information available?
  5. Look at the URL (web address of the website), and the domain name. Does it tell you something about the author?

    .gov, .org, .com, .edu, .gc.ca (Government of Canada).

CRAAP: Accuracy

Accuracy targets the information’s reliability and correctness. Deciding if the information is accurate is a difficult task, as your opinions are subjective and potentially clouded by unconscious bias (bias you don’t think about). Ask the following questions when assessing accuracy of information:

  1. Where does the information come from?
  2. Are findings supported by evidence? Are there links in the website to the evidence, or do you have to search for it yourself?

    Look for links to external sources throughout the page, or a list of references at the end of the paper/post.

  3. Is enough information given about original research to make it replicable?
  4. Can you access original data and findings that support the claims presented?
  5. Can you verify the information in another resource/other resources?

    Can you find additional content that shares the same information?

  6. Is the information biased or one-sided?

    Remember to check your own biases and preconceived ideas, as they may cloud your judgment.

  7. 7. Is the content grammatically correct?

    Spelling mistakes are never a good sign.

CRAAP: Purpose

Purpose tries to find out why the information was created. Along with accuracy, it is one of the harder parts of the evaluation process. Answering the following questions should make it easier to identify purpose:

  1. Why was the information published?

    Is it educational, professional or personal?

  2. Is the content based on facts supported by research or is it an opinion piece?
  3. Is the information objective?

    Once again, the point of bias can be looked at here. Is the information one-sided or are opposing viewpoints shared?

Examples

See table on the following pages for two examples reviewed using the CRAAP Evaluation Checklist.

Additional Resources:

  1. Juanita College Library CRAAP Test Worksheet

 

CRAAP criteria

Blog Post – source link

Website – source link

Currency

  1. Cannot find publication date on the blog post itself.
  2. Cannot say if information is up-to-date, but it may be.
  3. The website copyright © date is 2015 (found in page footer).
  4. All links to external pages are working.

FAIL

  1. Page was last updated on Nov.23, 2015. Website itself updated in January 2017.
  2. Content links to a number of studies, published between 1999-2014.
  3. Links to internal pages are all working, some broken links to external pages.

FAIL/

PASS

Relevance

  1. Information is about whether vaccines are linked to autism.
  2. The content is a personal story, based on personal anecdotes. 
  3. It looks like the post was written for other parents and members of the Voices for Vaccines online parent-run non-profit.
  4. The post is written in a conversational tone. This is a personal story.

FAIL

  1. Information focuses on debunking belief that vaccines are a cause of autism.
  2. The content identifies, and links to, a number of scientific studies, reports, and articles.
  3. Information included on this website is of interest to the general public.
  4. The content has a professional tone like that of a report.

PASS

Authority

  1. The author is Juniper Russo, a freelance writer and a mother of 2. She is an advocate for science and evidence-based parenting.
  2. Link to writer’s website is given. Links & Portfolio page gives some information about her previous work.
  3. From the website, it looks like the author has done research on the topic of vaccinations and link to autism. She is not an expert on the topic, but knows a lot about it. The author has a daughter with autism.
  4. Author’s contact information is available from her website, but not directly from the blog.
  5. .org – the website/blog belongs to a non-profit organization.

FAIL

  1. The website is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and focuses on sharing scientifically proven data.
  2. Information about the organization, including its Mission and Role, is available in the About CDC section.
  3. CDC employs a variety of health professionals, whose investigative work is featured on the website.
  4. Contact information for the CDC is available in the footer of each page.
  5. .gov – this website falls under the government umbrella.

PASS

Accuracy

  1. The information is based on personal experience, supported by content from a variety of sources which supports the author’s story.
  2. The author links to a number of external sources to support her personal story.
  3. The information presented in the blog post is not scientific research, but a personal story; no data is provided.
  4. Information seems to be one-sided – a pro-vaccines position.
  5. The information can be verified elsewhere.
  6. The grammar is correct; the tone is conversational.

FAIL

  1. The information is based on scientific evidence.
  2. All claims are supported by reports and scientific research.
  3. Related scientific articles are included below the article for additional reference on the topic.
  4. Information is one-sided – it leans towards debunking the popular claim that autism is caused by vaccines.
  5. Content on the page is grammatically correct.

PASS

Purpose

  1. The post is a personal story of a person who is a parent of a (vaccinated) daughter with autism.
  2. The content is a personal story.
  3. The content is one-sided.

FAIL

  1. The overall purpose of the website is to education the American public on a variety of topics of interest, presenting a scientific perspective.
  2. Content is based on researched scientific evidence.
  3. Information is one-sided.

PASS

Comments

This was the first result (in June 2016) in the Google search: vaccines autism. Some would think the first result is always best, but not in this case. The post was on the topic of vaccines and autism, but it was a personal story of a parent. While personal experiences are valid, they cannot be duplicated or considered as scientific. This post was valuable in terms of lived experience, but did not have professional or expert merit.

FAIL

This website was in the top 5 results, presented by Google, with vaccines autism search. While the information is one-sided, all claims are supported by numerous reports, scientific research, as well as additional links to pages of interest. Information on this page is meant for consumer readers.

PASS