Evaluating Online Information: Use the CRAP test

All information found online should be critically evaluated because there is no guarantee that it is reliable or accurate.

Use this four-part test (PDF) to determine the suitability of information you want to use. 

Currency (Is the information up-to-date?)

  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
    • Is the website modified regularly?
  • Is the information current enough for your research?

Checklist for up-to-date information  

  • Site or page date
    • Is the date of publication or last revision published (often at the bottom of the page)?
    • When was the site or page last updated?
      • Is the information out-of-date?

Reliability (Is the information trustworthy?)

  • Is this web page intended for elementary or high school students?
    • If so, is it the best site to refer to when writing a university-level research paper?
  • Has the information passed through any peer reviewing process?​
  • Sources?
    • Has the author(s) documented his/her sources by including a reference list?
    • Is the information reproduced from another site. If so, which one?
    • If applicable, when were the sources published?

Checklist for reliable information

  • Evidence of the peer review process (e.g., in an "About us" or editorial statement)
  • A bibliography or reference list

Authority (Is the author credible?)

  • Who is the creator or author of the website or web page
    • E.g., a recognized individual or organization/government?
  • What are his/her/its credentials
    • E.g., is the individual author or organization known in the field? 
  • Has the author published other material(s)?
  • Does the author provide contact information (e.g., email address or phone number) in case you want to verify the information?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
    • Can you determine if he/she/the organization has a good reputation?

    Checklist for authoritative information

    • Author's credentials
      • Look for information about the author of the site or page. 
        • Is the author qualified to publish on this topic?
          • E.g, Can you identify the author's education and relevant professional experience?
        • Look up the author's name in the Carleton University Library catalogue or Wikipedia. 
    • URL
      • Read the uniform resource locator (URL) carefully to determine if you are reading someone's personal page. 
        • You need to investigate the author carefully because personal pages have no publisher or domain owner to vouch for the information.
    • Domain
      • Is the domain extension appropriate for the content? 
        • Government sites: .gov
        • Educational sites: edu
        • Nonprofit organizations: .org
    • Publisher
      • Identify the publisher (individual or organization) of the site or page. 
        • The publisher operates the server computer from which the site or page is issued. Do you know anything about the publisher?
    • "About us" links
      • Read the information on the site or page about the author and/or publisher. 
        • This could be under "about us," "philosophy," "background," or "bibliography" tabs.
    • Page design or structure
      • Page design is not always an indicator of credibility but if a site or page is easy to navigate, you'll be able to assess the information more easily.

    Purpose/Point of view (Is the information objective?)

    • What is the purpose or point of view of the site?
      • Is the information primarily fact or opinion?
      • Does the point of view seem balanced and/or objective (e.g., presents more than one perspective)?
    • What is the publisher's interest (if any) in this information? 
      • Does the site try to persuade, advocate, entertain, or sell a product?

    Checklist for objective information

    • "About us" links
      • Read the information on the site or page about the author and/or publisher. 
        • This could be under "about us" or "philosophy", "background" or "bibliography" tabs.
      • Is there advertising?
    • Cross reference information
      • Try to verify the information by cross referencing the material. 
        • Look up some of the references in Google Scholar (through the Carleton University Library).


    Complete CRAP test checklist

    Currency

    • Site or page date
      • Is the date of publication or last revision published (often at the bottom of the page)?
      • When was the site or page last updated?

    Reliability

    • Evidence of the peer review process (e.g., in an "About us" or editorial statement)
    • A bibliography or reference list

    Authority

    • Author's credentials
      • Look for information about the author of the site or page. 
        • Is the author qualified to publish on this topic?
          • E.g, Can you identify the author's education and relevant professional experience?
        • Look up the author's name in the Carleton University Library catalogue or Wikipedia. 
    • URL
      • Read the uniform resource locator (URL) carefully to determine if you are reading someone's personal page. 
        • You need to investigate the author carefully because personal pages have no publisher or domain owner to vouch for the information.
    • Domain
      • Is the domain extension appropriate for the content? 
        • Government sites: .gov
        • Educational sites: edu
        • Nonprofit organizations: .org
    • Publisher
      • Identify the publisher (individual or organization) of the site or page. 
        • The publisher operates the server computer from which the site or page is issued. Do you know anything about the publisher?
    • "About us" links
      • Read the information on the site or page about the author and/or publisher. 
        • This could be under "about us," "philosophy," "background," or "bibliography" tabs.
    • Page design or structure
      • Page design is not always an indicator of credibility but if a site or page is easy to navigate, you'll be able to assess the information more easily.

    Purpose/Point of view

    • "About us" links
      • Read the information on the site or page about the author and/or publisher. 
        • This could be under "about us" or "philosophy", "background" or "bibliography" tabs.
      • Is there advertising?
    • Cross reference information
      • Try to verify the information by cross referencing the material. 
        • Look up some of the references in Google Scholar (through the Carleton University Library).


    The original CRAP test is courtesy of the University of Waterloo.

    More information: Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask (University of California Berkley).

    Content last updated: July 27, 2019