Searching for information wordleWe’ve been analysing the results from a questionnaire that was circulated to the SADL students at the outset of the project. One area we were interested in learning more about was the current scholarly practices of our students. So we asked them, when asked to carry out research for a scholarly project (i.e, research you are asked to do for your course), where do you begin your searches (e.g, library database, specific website, library book catalogue)? What is the first thing you are likely to do? Unsurprisingly quite a number of them do start with Google, or Google Scholar.

We followed this up by asking when searching the internet, how do you assess the quality of the sources that you find. Lots of the students talked about reliability of information being a key factor, but how do you judge this? Other important factors were: who wrote the information, was it relevant to their topic? Some students try to read several of the top sites they find to get a sense of what they were about. In reading the responses I started to realise that assessing quality was often quite hard, and could be a quite time consuming process, so I thought I would share a quick 5 step test you can use.

Known as the CRAAP test, this stands for:

  • Credibility: so the timeliness (publication date, revision history) of the information
  • Relevance: the importance to your needs, depending on your audience and comparing to other sources
  • Accuracy: the reliability of the information, look for evidence of bias and errors
  • Authority: the source (author, publisher etc.), contact information and credentials
  • Purpose: what is the reason behind the site (to sell, teach, entertain) – is it factual or opinion based information and what is the author’s intent?

So next time you want to use a source you find on the internet, why not try out this test!

Jane Secker

About Jane Secker

Digital Literacy and Copyright Advisor at LSE's Centre for Learning Technology