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Library Research: Evaluating Online Sources

A general overview of library research.

Saint Paul College Library

How to Evaluate Sources

In 2023, most of the information you'll come into contact with will be something you read on the internet. Evaluating your sources means recognizing whether that online information is accurate, reliable, and useful to your research. This can be difficult, but this page will provide you with a system that helps to simplify the process. 

This system is called CRAAP:

  • Currency: the timeliness of the information
  • Relevance: the importance of the information to your research
  • Authority: the source of the information
  • Accuracy: the reliability and correctness of the information
  • Purpose: the reason the information exists

Below, you'll learn how each of these elements contributes to source evaluation. 

  Why? Questions to ask yourself:
Currency To determine if the date of publication is recent enough for your research. 
  • When was this information published or posted?
  • Are the references and/or links current?
  • Is it important to your research that your sources are current? Why or why not?
Relevance To determine if this information will be beneficial to your research. 
  • What aspect of your research question(s) does this information address?
  • Who is the intended audience? 
  • Does this source provide me with a new perspective or piece of information?
  • Is it too general or technical?
Authority To determine if the creator of the information has the knowledge and experience necessary to write about this subject in this specific context. 
  • Who is the author/publisher/source?
  • What are the author's credentials and organizational affiliations? Have they published on this topic before?
  • What clues does the URL give you about the publisher?
  • How does this publisher relate to this topic? Are they subject-only or do they publish a wide variety of material?
Accuracy To determine whether or not the information provided is supported by evidence. 
  • How was this source reviewed before it was published (peer review, an editorial board, etc.)? In other words, who looked at this information and said, "it looks good to me," before it was published or posted?
  • Does the article align with other articles on the topic?
  • Does this information contain spelling errors, grammar mistakes, or overuse punctuation???
  • Does the information seem complete, or is it missing facts or other points of view?
Purpose To determine why this information was created, why the data were compiled, or why this story is being told. 
  • Does the point of view seem objective or impartial? 
  • Is the language used meant to provoke anger or outrage?
  • What is the purpose of this information? To persuade, to entertain, to teach, to inform? (If the answer is "persuade," how will the author or publisher benefit by getting you to agree with them?)
  • Do you sense a personal, political, or religious bias?