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The CRAAP Test is a easy to use set of questions to determine whether or not a resource should be used.

Introduction to the CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test is a checklist of sorts to assist researchers with evaluating websites; however, this checklist works for any source including journal articles and books. It is also vital to use to help stop the spread of misinformation in all of its various forms.

As you can see in the navigation, CRAAP stands for the five most important parts of source evaluation: Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Many of these can blend together at times, such as when assessing the authority and purpose of a website, but they can also stand alone and offer their own insights into a source's usefulness.

It is also important to remember that not all of the five elements of the CRAAP Test are equal and that their importance can change depending on the field and type of research you are conducting. The most common trap for new and experienced researchers is using a website that looks modern over one that looks outdated which is referring to the Currency. Just because it looks good doesn't mean it is trustworthy.

If there are two elements that stand out as the most important of the five it would be Authority and Purpose. The reason a source exists starts off with a purpose or a thesis. Why did this source get published? Why was it written? The answer to these questions of Purpose require researchers to look at the Authority or authors behind the source. The other three elements of the CRAAP Test can be misleading if used on their own. A source can appear accurate and relevant to your research while also being published recently and look current and modern, but if the author and their purpose is to mislead or discredit someone or an idea, then these other three matter little in terms of source evaluation.

The HJF Library recommends going through this guide and learning about all five elements of the CRAAP Test and then applying it not only to websites, but to any resource you plan on using in your research. The goal is to eliminate those less than trustworthy sources and replace them with better more appropriate sources that will give you a better research paper.

Information Problems from External and Internal Sources

The 21st century maybe has not introduced some of these problems we see today, but social media and modern communication have given rise to a number of concerning concepts that all researchers should be aware of. The CRAAP Test cannot always help identify some of these, but they can help steer you away from unreliable sources that could be involved in the concepts below.

Misinformation: False, inaccurate or misleading information regardless of the reason why or an intention to deceive.

Disinformation: A subset of misinformation, this is the deliberate intention to spread false, inaccurate, or misleading information. This can include hoaxes, propaganda, fake news, deepfakes, etc.

Fake News: Disinformation spread through outlets designed to look like legitimate news media organizations.

Deepfakes: A subset of disinformation and often used with fake news, deepfakes are audio, video or photographs that have been altered to appear a certain way that is different then what really happened. This typically happens by replacing someone in photographs or videos with someone else who was never there and then passing it off as a real video or photograph.

 What is Confirmation Bias? 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "the tendency to seek or favor new information which supports one's existing theories or beliefs, while avoiding or rejecting that which disrupts them," (OED, 2021). You can see why this would be a problem as it could potentially lead you to not only skipping over relevant sources that don't fit your views, but potentially using and spreading misinformation in all its forms. 

The HJF Library sees this often from beginners to experienced researchers. It usually starts off with someone asking us to help the find sources to prove something and that something is a viewpoint they already feel strongly about and are now seeking confirmation for holding that view. From politics to religion to sports, confirmation bias exists and can be very difficult to convince people they are suffering from it. After all, no one wants to be proven wrong and we all love to be proven right.

To help avoid falling victim to our own biasness, use the checklist below to help guide you away from this internal trap.

  1. Start with a question not a statement.
    1. Pepperoni is the best pizza topping vs. what is the best pizza topping
  2. Resist forming a conclusion or opinion until the research has been mostly complete.
  3. Make sure to identify multiple viewpoints on a topic and learn about as many of them as you can. A great place to start is the HJF database Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints
  4. Use the CRAAP Test to evaluate all sources and eliminate any that do not pass it.