One of the most popular models for evaluating information, either in print or online, is known as the CRAAP Test, an acronym that can always be used to help determine the quality of an information source. The letters in the acronym stand for the following criteria, some of which can be determined, and some of which cannot.
- Can you tell when the page was created or last updated? (Sometimes this is difficult to find on websites; the dates listed at the bottom of a page may not be the actual dates that content was created.)
- Is currency a major criterion for your topic?
- For websites, are the links all working?
- Does this source provide information that's useful for your topic?
- Is the information presented at a level that is appropriate to your needs (is it too simplistic, too advanced)?
- Have you looked at other sources to determine that this is the best resource for your topic?
- Is this a source that will be appropriate for you to cite in your final product?
- Can you tell who the author of your source is? (This can be especially difficult with some websites.)
- Is the author qualified to speak about your topic? (Can a professor of history speak authoritatively about climate change? Is this source by an elementary school student, or even a college student?)
- Do any of your other sources cite this author in their work?
- Is the author an organization? Do they have a specific agenda for promoting information on a specific side of an argument?
- Is the information presented with lots of spelling or grammatical errors?
- Does the information presented match other information you've found?
- Does the author cite others as evidence for their argument(s)? Are there authorities mentioned in the content? Is there a bibliography or sources used listing?
- Does this source provide facts or opinions or even propaganda?
- Is this source, or the organization providing this information, intended to be informative, to sell a product, to persuade, or to entertain?
If you consider all of these criteria, and if the information comes up short in an area, it might be wise to discard that source and go on to find another.