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Library Research Guides
Philosophy: Evaluating Sources
An introduction to finding resources in the library and online to assist with philosophy research.
Most of the books and articles you find through the library undergo a lengthy review and publishing process. Contrast this to the open Web where anyone can publish anything and you see why evaluating your sources is an important part of research.
CRAAP Test Plus
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 the 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?
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?
+Plus: How is the information impacted by the dominant culture?
Who benefits from the story that is being told?
Whose voices, concerns, and experiences are included? Whose are excluded?
What assumptions are made? What unexamined beliefs does the author appear to have? What is the author unconscious/unaware of?
Your job as a researcher is to find out what experts (people with advanced training on a topic) have concluded about your topic and use that evidence to argue what you believe to be correct. The most credible resources are peer reviewed, which are resources written by experts and reviewed by other experts, i.e. their "peers."
For more on determining credibility, check out this video from North Carolina State Libraries.
Going a Step Beyond CRAAP
The CRAAP Test is a great tool for basic evaluation of a source. However, webpages can be difficult to evaluate because you cannot always find the information you need on the page itself. When this happens, you need to leave the page and do some additional research about the organization, the author, or the claims being made.
Here are four ways to fact check sources that go beyond the CRAAP test:
Check for previous work
When researching a claim, see if a reputable fact-checking organization like Factcheck.org or Snopes has already de-bunked it
Go upstream to find the source
Does the article you're reading refer to a study, a Pew research survey, an expert opinion, or some other outside source? Hop onto the library's OneSearch database or Google and see if you can find that original source!
See what others are writing and saying about the author, the organization, and/or the claim being made.
Stuck? Go back to the webpage you're trying to evaluate, take stock of what you know so far, and try a different approach.