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Research Guides

Information Literacy & Library Research: Applying the CRAAP Test to Sources

Information literacy is the ability to know when information is needed and to be able to identify, locate and evaluate, and then legally and responsibly use and share that information.

Applying the CRAAP Test to Articles

When searching for articles in databases, the CRAAP test can be used to quickly evaluate any potential articles by looking through the detailed record, which is found by clicking on an article's title.

Here is a break down of where you can find some of the information in Academic Search Ultimate:

Currency is found by looking at when the article was published. How does when it was publish affect the information based on your topic?

By scanning the abstract, you can quickly see if the article is relevant, as the abstract is a summary of what the article is about.

Authority can be gauged by looking at the authors themselves. Are they qualified to be writing about this subject with this amount of detail? You can see their institutional affiliations near the bottom, and you can also click their names to see what other articles they have written. Googling their names and their affiliations can give you more information on their educational background as well.

Accuracy is all about if they've supported their arguments, so looking at the article itself to see if there are graphs and citations is a good idea. You can also click on the journal title to see if the journal is peer reviewed or not, which gives an additional layer of accuracy to the article.

If your notice the purpose is highlighted by the PDF Full text icon, this is because skimming the actual article, especially the introduction and conclusion, can be the best way to assess the purpose of the article and whether it will work for your purpose.

Breakdown of the detailed records using the CRAAP test.


The following video (5:20) will show how the CRAAP test can look when put into action, evaluating both a magazine article and a journal article.


Applying the CRAAP Test to Books

Using the CRAAP test on books is a little different. Books are formatted differently and are obviously much longer than research articles. This means that checking for the  CRAAP criteria will take just a little bit more digging. You can search for books in the Books and eBooks catalog, or the EDS. In both locations you can search using the skills we learned in Module 3, to find books on your topic. You will want to click on the book title for more details so you can apply the CRAAP test criteria.

Here is a breakdown of how you can find that information in the Books and eBooks catalog and EDS:

Look for currency in the same location as an article, the publication date. Based on that date, explain whether the book is current enough, given your topic. 

To establish relevance, use the book summary, similar to the abstract of an article. You can quickly scan the book summary or the table of contents in the front of the book to get an idea of how relevant the book’s content might be. Pay attention to specific chapters, because the entire book might be too broad for your topic, but a particular chapter of the book might be relevant to you.

Gauge authority by looking into the authors. Who are they? What are their credentials? You might have to do some background research in Google to find out more but sometimes books will have author blurbs.

Accuracy is the most difficult to establish, because books aren't peer reviewed in the way that articles are. However, you can still check for citations and look into the publishers of the book. The quickest tell is if the publisher is an academic press, such as one belonging to a university. They usually have the most rigorous editorial process. But that doesn't mean other presses and publishers are less good. Simply look into the publisher. How well known are they? What do they typically publish? Nonfiction publishers will also be considered academic to a certain degree. Are they a regular publishing company or are they self-published? Self-published books generally haven’t gone through a formal editorial process, and therefore could potentially be less accurate. Citations in books can be in a number of places, so you have to actually open the book or ebook and check. Some books have them at the end of each chapter, some in footnotes, and some at the very end of the book. They will usually be labeled as "notes'' or "references."

You can find the purpose by reading the book summary, as well as the preface of the book, if you are doing a deeper dive into the book. The acknowledgments page is also a place to look for some clues as to the purpose.


a screenshot of an ebook found in the library catalog, highlighting the locations the information for using the CRAAP criteria.

Applying CRAAP Test to Websites

Using the CRAAP test on websites is probably the most important, since there is little to no regulation on what can be published on the internet. Websites are also formatted very differently from books and research articles. This means that checking for the CRAAP criteria will take more digging and some creativity. Anytime you do a Google or other internet search, whether for academic research or an informal query, you should be using the CRAAP test to evaluate the quality of information you are accessing.

Here is a breakdown of how you can evaluate the websites you use while searching the internet:

Look for currency as you search. Sometimes the date for when a page on a website is published will be listed under the title of your results. Other times it will be at the top of the page itself, especially when the source is a news site or blog with frequent updates of articles and stories. Other websites might be updated frequently too, but won’t necessarily refresh the date for each update. How can you tell how current the information is in those cases? You can look for any dates listed on the page. Sometimes there will be dates in the text, other times you can check for the copyright date at the bottom of the page, which should be current. If not, you know that the site is not maintained and the information is either out of date or less reliable.

To establish relevance, use the title followed by the summary below the title in your search results, and then skim the actual webpages to get a good idea of the content.

Check the authority of the authors in the same way. But not all webpages will have authors listed, so how can you gauge authority? You can do so by looking at the owner of the website, the company and associated organizations. News companies will usually list their journalists as authors, but other organizations will post anonymously under just the company name. Government websites will only publish under government agency or department name.

Accuracy is the most difficult to establish, because websites are not peer reviewed, and there is usually no editing process. Is the website associated with a well known organization, educational institution, or news source? Does the website have citations or links to external sources? These citations won’t necessarily be the formal citation styles that you will see in academic sources, but if they are linking to their sources, that is a good indication of accuracy. Make sure to check where the links lead, to see if they are actually linking to the legitimate source and not just creating the illusion of citing their sources. If the website has lots of spelling and grammatical errors, the information might be sketchy as well. Also, what type of website is it? Is it a .com or .org? In general, .edu are considered the most accurate and authoritative because they represent educational websites that are affiliated with educational institutions. 

The purpose of a website can be tricky to find at times. This is another time where the domain types can give you hints. The .com domains are for profit, .gov are government websites, .edu are educational websites, and .org are for organizations which can be for various purposes. Other ways you can tell the purpose of a website is to try and find the “about'' page, which should give some background information on the website and its purpose. Other tactics include skimming relevant pages to find what type of rhetoric is being used. Are they trying to sell you on an idea or product? Is it clickbait ? Are there more ads than content? Is the language neutral or inflammatory? In these cases, the information might be biased or otherwise unreliable.