The CRAAP Test provides five criteria that you can use when determining whether a resource you have found can be used and cited in your research paper. Originally designed to evaluate websites, the criteria is universal enough to use on other resources like books and articles.
Currency, or date, is important to note because information can quickly become obsolete. Supporting your research with facts that have been superseded by new research or recent events weakens your argument. Not all assignments require the most current information; older materials can provide valuable information such as a historical overview of your topic. In some disciplines, the date of the source is less important (e.g. History), while in others it is very important (e.g. Science or Technology).
How do you know if timeliness is an important factor for your information? Ask yourself:
For our topic, is it going to be more useful to have the book Mind and Media: the effects of television, video games, and computers published in 1984 or the 2013 article entitled "Violent Online Games Exposure and Cyberbullying/Victimization Among Adolescents?"
Relevance is important because you are expected to support your ideas with pertinent information. A source detailing Einstein's marriage would not be very relevant to a paper about his scientific theories.
How do you know if your source is relevant? Ask yourself some of these questions about the source:
Does it make sense for us to use the book: The Video Game Guide: 1,000+ Arcade, Console and Computer Games, 1962-2012 for this paper?
Authority is important in judging the credibility of the author's assertions. In a trial regarding DNA evidence, a jury would find a genetics specialist's testimony far more authoritative compared to a testimony from a random person off the street.
How do you know if an author is an authority on your topic? Ask yourself these questions:
Who is the more reliable source? The anonymous blogger on videogameblogger.com or the author of the peer reviewed article in the Journal of Psychiatric Research?
Accuracy is important because errors and untruths distort a line of reasoning. When you present inaccurate information, you undermine your own credibility.
How do you know if your sources are accurate? Ask the following questions about your sources:
What would be more accurate? The poll of their online readers about their views on video games posted on Newsweek's website or the study undertaken by University of Toledo professors using the Youth Self-Report, a standardized self-report measure of adolescent problem behaviors?
Purpose, or reason for writing, is important because books, articles, and web pages exist to serve a purpose. They can educate, entertain, or sell a product or point of view. Some sources may be frivolous or commercial in nature, providing inaccurate, false, or biased information. Other sources are more ambiguous about any potential partiality. Varied points of view can be valid as long as they are based on good reasoning and careful use of evidence.
How do you determine your source's purpose? Ask these questions:
Who would be considered a less biased source? The creator of Halo in a press release or three child psychologists who present their findings at an international psychology conference?