Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

There's so much information online these days!

Unfortunately, a lot of what you read online might be misinformation — information that's inaccurate, false, or highly biased.

How can you trust the information you see on your screen?

The CRAAP test was designed to assess the reliability of online sources. It stands for:

  • Currency

  • Relevance

  • Authority

  • Accuracy

  • Purpose

Use the CRAAP test criteria to help you:

  • avoid spreading misinformation

  • create projects, presentations, and papers that audiences can trust

Currency

You scroll through your Facebook feed and see a reposted article with the headline:

Crime Rising This Year

You read through the story and decide to use it as a source for your presentation about public safety.

There's just one problem: the story is from two years ago.

Byte Author Uploaded Image

The article is outdated so it doesn't have currency — the information isn't recent so the situation has probably changed since the article was published.

Before you use a source, ask yourself:

  • When was it published?

  • What has changed since then?

  • Is there more useful, up-to-date information available?

Flaticon Icon Do:

  • check the date of the article or page

  • search Google News to find up-to-date information on the topic (you'll see how old the article is in the search results)

Flaticon Icon Don't:

  • rely on out-of-date material when fresh information is available

  • discount older sources if they have accurate information you need

Relevance

If your source is relevant to the topic, it should help you answer the main question of your presentation or essay.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If the question is, "How can art change the world?", history websites and online art magazines are good places to start. See if you can find information about famous artists who had an effect on history.

It's also important to use sources appropriate for your audience's understanding of the topic. An academic paper might be too challenging for your peers. Find a source written for a more general audience instead, like an article from an online newspaper.

Flaticon Icon Do:

  • use sources that help you gain knowledge of the subject

Flaticon Icon Don't:

  • choose sources your audience will have trouble understanding

Authority

Everyone can have an opinion about a topic but not everyone has authority — the knowledge and experience to provide reliable information about the topic.

Dumbledore from Harry Potter holding up a golden chalice while sitting on a throne

To know if an author is an authority on an issue:

  • Search Google to find out how much the author has studied the topic.

  • Research the organization who published the information. Make sure the organization has a reputation as a credible source of information.

Flaticon Icon Do:

  • research your source's knowledge, experience, and reputation

Flaticon Icon Don't:

  • assume your source is an authority on the topic just because they have a title like Dr. or Professor

Quiz

You have to write an essay for your Intro to Psychology university course. Which sources are appropriate? Select all that apply.

Accuracy

Did you know that spaghetti grows on trees?

Before you say, "Hey! Wait a minute," you should know that this 1950s BBC film was made to warn audiences about the power of misinformation.

Of course spaghetti doesn't grow on trees! But a video like this one — professionally produced with an authoritative voice — can make you think otherwise.

To assess the accuracy of information, ask yourself:

  • Is there evidence to support this? Find data that confirms the claim.

  • Is this evidence peer reviewed? The data should be approved by other authoritative sources in the same field of study.

Flaticon Icon Do:

  • look for evidence that supports your source's argument

Flaticon Icon Don't:

  • assume that your source is automatically trustworthy

Purpose

While many news sources try to present objective information, others may have a different purpose.

Watch out for:

  • Bias — opinions that are strongly for or against an idea. Biased stories try to influence you to agree with their argument, so make sure you understand the author's intention.

  • Clickbait — stories designed to catch your attention with sensational headlines.

Watch the video below for some examples of clickbait:

Avoid deception!

If you're unsure about a source's purpose, find more information about who produced this information. What's their agenda?

Flaticon Icon Do:

  • be skeptical of sources that use emotional language

Flaticon Icon Don't:

  • assume your source doesn't have an agenda

Quiz

Which newspaper headline has a strong bias?

Take Action

A man pointing to his head and saying, Think critically about the online sources you use!

Your audience will appreciate it!

For your next research project or school assignment, apply the CRAAP test by asking questions:

License:

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This Byte has been authored by

SB

Steve Birek

Content Producer at Rumie