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Information skills: Evaluating information

Evaluate your information using The CRAAP Test, Rauru Whakarare Evaluation Framework or SIFT

1. The CRAAP test

A useful tool to get started with checking the quality of the information you are relying on for your assignments. Modified from the original by Meriam Library, CSU and adapted using  SIFT lateral reading strategies and includes some terms and questions from the Rauru Whakarare Evaluation Framework.

Currency:

When was the information published or posted?

Are links functional?

Relevance:

Does it help solve your problem?

What is the value of the information to the profession?

Authority:

Have you checked the authority or mana of the author / organisation in another source? Watch a 2 minute video with tips to investigate a source.

Is the information from an official source e.g. .govt.nz; .ac.nz; .health.nz; .parliament.nz; .cri.nz etc?

If it's an article in a journal, is the journal peer reviewed

Accuracy:

Can you verify their information in another source? 

Have you checked the whakapapa or background of the information?

Watch a 3 minute video with tips to find the original source.

Watch a 3 minute video with tips to look for trusted work.

Purpose:

Have you considered the aronga or objectivity of the information?

Why was the source created and who was it created for?

Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?

Is there evidence of bias or agenda? Watch a 6 minute video on identifying bias and agenda

Do you know the difference between misinformation and disinformation? 

A CRAAP Test model for website evaluation - a downloadable checklist modified from Meriam Library, CSU.

An example of evaluating a video from Waikato University by applying the CRAAP test to Plandemic using lateral reading techniques

 

2. Rauru Whakarare Evaluation Framework - A Uniquely Aotearoa Approach

CC- BY-NC-SA 4.0

This is a kaupapa Māori approach for evaluating information sources developed by Angela Feekery and Carla Jeffrey at Massey University. The framework embodies the connectedness of Whakapapa (background), Orokohanga (origins), Mana (authority), Māramatanga (content) and Aronga (lens) of information we are using. The Rauru Whakarare pattern was chosen as it represents interconnectedness. Download the checklist for the Rauru Whakarare Evaluation Framework here.

An overview of the key concepts of Rauru Whakarare Framework. 

Whakapapa Whakapapa identifies and connects the various layers identified in this framework you should consider when evaluating sources. 
Orokohanga Considers where the information has come from and who the authors/publishers of the source are.
Mana Refers to status and standing within a community or organisation. This is vital when considering whether to use a particular source. It connects strongly to the author’s expertise and reputation.
Māramatanga Indicates enlightenment which means that the source should positively impact the wider community of understanding and add value to the existing conversations within a particular topic area. 
Aronga Aronga identifies the focus and purpose of the information. It can be influenced by the author/organisation/publisher’s viewpoints and considers whether they are well known for doing this kind of research or work.

More information on Rauru Whakarare includes:

3. The SIFT tool : Evaluate websites using lateral reading techniques

CC- BY-4.0

Mike Caulfield, digital literacy expert and creator of SIFT shares how to apply SIFT to evaluate web sources using lateral reading techniques .

1.The S in SIFT [You Tube: 3 minutes] - Stop and learn how fact checkers outperformed professional historians in a Stanford experiement.

2.The I in SIFT  [You Tube: 3 minutes] - Investigate:  Tips for developing fact checking skills 

3. The F in SIFT [You Tube: 3 minutes] - Find the original source

4. The T in SIFT [You Tube 3 minutes] - Trace to trusted sources

For more about lateral reading to evaluate information see the articles below by McGrew, Ortega, Breakstone & Wineburg.

Take a free online course to apply SIFT techniques - No login required. CC- BY-4.0

4. Other fact-checking quick tips - Short videos

Fact-checking from Buzzfeed  on You Tube - Experts in the field of fake news debunking

Fact-checking from Ctrl-F on You Tube

Accuracy

If your source makes factual claims, you want to be able to check their facts with other sources. So, for example if a study claims to show that vaccinations cause autism, it is useful to see if other studies have found the same thing.

Some guidelines for assessing a source’s accuracy:

Source How to tell?
Books Does this book use references? If so, you can check them. If not, try searching online for any facts that you intend to use to support your arguments.
Journals If the journal is peer-reviewed, some fact checking should already have been done.
Online Video You need to search for other trustworthy sources to check these facts - one reason that videos make uncommon academic sources. This video on applying the CRAAP test to Plandemic includes a good example of fact checking for accuracy.
Web Page

You'll need to search for other reputable sources to check these facts. Mike Caulfield gives an example of finding better coverage of information when checking a webpage.

Statistics Try searching, but other sources may not exist.  Mike Caulfield gives an example of tracing a statistic to its source.

 

Authority

With authority we want to know that the author knows a lot about the subject area. A famous heart surgeon may know a lot about the ins and outs of the heart but may not know a lot on how to design a house. When looking for information we want to be able to show that the source has been written by an expert in that area.

Some guidelines for assessing a source’s authority:

Source How to tell?
Books Most academic authors will give their credentials in the "about the author" section. You can search online for them too.  
Journals Most academic journals will check the authority for you and give author qualifications and where they work.  
Online Video You need to identify the speaker/author and search for them. This video on applying the CRAAP test to Plandemic includes a good example of fact-checking for authority.
Web page You need to identify the author and search for them. If they are credible they should not be hard to find. This video on SIFT method includes a good example of fact-checking a website for authority.
Statistics These depend on who produced the statistics. Can the organization be trusted? This video on SIFT method includes a good example of tracing a statistical claim.

 

Image: Pixabay

Currency

You need to decide if the source that you have found is current.

How recent is recent enough?

If you are studying ancient Egypt, a source decades old may be fine. If you are studying nanotechnology, a year old may be too old.

Your tutor should be able to help with this, so when you are given an assignment, ask them about how old sources can be. 

How can you tell how old sources are?

 

Source How to tell?
Books Look for the most recent copyright date on the back of the title page.
Journals Look for the year on the cover or first pages, or search Google scholar for the article's citation.
Online Video Sometimes appears in the credits. If it's original content, you might use the upload date.  
Web page It can be hard to tell. Look for a "last updated" statement which is often at the bottom of the page.  

Image: Pixabay

Purpose

It is also vital to think about why a source was created, because authors always have a reason why they put time and effort into creating the item.

Suitable purposes for study include: spreading new information; education; summarising evidence or knowledge. Unsuitable purposes typically include persuasion, sales, entertainment and propaganda. Consider whether the source presents facts (can they be checked?) opinion (informed or uninformed?) or misinformation

Acceptable for purpose How to tell?
Scholarship Some sources, like journals, are to share information between academics.
Summarize knowledge  Sources like text books and encyclopedias are there to give a summary of current knowledge.  
News News sources (which can include some social media posts) try to give information about current events but remember that some news sources are biased. A good website to check if a major news source has bias is https://mediabiasfactcheck.com Other fact-checking websites include Snopes and Politifact
Unacceptable for purpose How to tell?
Persuasion and propaganda Sources like political or advocacy groups, want to persuade the reader of an opinion. These are not usually suitable.
Selling The purpose of some sources is to promote a business or sell something. Since these sources have a clear conflict of interest, they are not usually suitable for study.  
Entertainment Sources that are meant to divert and entertain include most social media and recreational websites. These sources usually lack the academic rigor to be suitable for study.

Relevance

When you are looking through the sources that you have found, you need to consider where and how you could use them:

If it does not help solve your problem or inform an argument that you are making, then it is probably a waste of your time!

So, look at your assignment/task, marking guide etc. and decide:

Where will this source earn me marks? How would I use it?

Does it help solve my problem?

Some guidelines for assessing a source's relevance:

Source How to tell?
Books Look at the Table of Contents. If there is not at least a chapter there on your subject, it could be a waste of time.  
Journals Look at the abstract. Does it discuss your question? Will it be worth reading the whole article?
Online Video You will have to tell from the title and the description if it is worth watching.
Web page You can scan the page or look at the sections that it has to see if it discusses your issue.
Statistics Look at column headers and the level of detail. Do the statistics inform your research.

 

Books on evaluating research

Find more resources on evaluating research on the Analysing page of the Research subject guide.