Skip to Main Content

Political Science: Evaluating Sources


Evaluating Information Applying the CRAAP Test
Meriam Library
California State University, Chico

When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it . . . but is it good information? You will have to determine that for yourself, and the CRAAP Test can help. The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

*Key: indicates criteria is for Web

Evaluation Criteria

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

When was the information published or posted?

Has the information been revised or updated?

Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?

*Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

Who is the intended audience?

Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?

Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?

What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?

Is the author qualified to write on the topic?

Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?

*Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

Where does the information come from?

Is the information supported by evidence?

Has the information been reviewed or refereed?

Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?

Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?

Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?

Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?

Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?

Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?

Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?


Using the SIFT Method

Use the SIFT method to help you analyze information, especially news or other online media.

S: Stop!

Before you share the article, the video, or react strongly to a headline, pause and ask yourself: 

  • Are you familiar with the website or information source where you're currently reading this information?  
  • What do you know about the reputation of the website or the claim/ being made?
    • If you don't know, then move on the following steps to figure out if the source and/or the claim/headline/report is trustworthy and factual. Don't read or share media until you know what it is! Throughout this process check your emotions and cognitive bias, and if you get overwhelmed take a second to remember your original purpose and try not to get side-tracked (it's easy to fall down rabbit holes sometimes!) 

Move on to the next step... 

I: Investigate the Source

You want to know what you're reading before you read it. 

  • Investigate the expertise and agenda of the source to determine its significance and trustworthiness. 
    • Use tools like Wikipedia.  You can add the word "wikipedia" to the base of the url or the author's name in the search bar.  For example if I wanted to figure out more information about an online news source I could type " wikipedia" in the search bar to find out more information about the source outside of the source (moving beyond the "About Us" section). 
    • On social media platforms like Twitter you can use what's called the hovering technique:

Move on to the next step... 

F: Find Better Coverage 

If your original source is questionable, find a better source to determine accuracy of claim.

Move on to the next step... 

T: Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media Back to the Original Context 

What's the original context? 

  • By finding the original source of reporting or the photo in question you can get a more complete picture of the issue or a research finding that is more accurate. Your aim here is to get to the the point where the people doing the writing are the people verifying the facts (the original reporting source).  
    • When reading online sources, pay attention to who they quote as a source and see if you can find more information. 
    • If there are hyperlinks in the source that point towards original studies or reporting go ahead and click on those to follow the chain to the original source.   
    • If there is a bibliography, open up the original reporting sources listed.  
    • Google key terms (or the actual terms) if the source has no mention of the origin.  
  • After you've found the original claim, quote, finding, or news story, ask yourself if it was fairly and accurately represented in the media that you initially came across. 

The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield.

All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials with a CC BY 4.0 license.