The CRAAP Test is a test developed by Sarah Blakeslee and her team of librarians at California State University, Chico (CSU Chico) to check the reliability of sources across academic disciplines. Due to a vast number of sources existing online, it can be difficult to tell whether these sources are trustworthy to use as tools for research. Thus, the CRAAP test makes it easier for educators and students to determine if their sources can be trusted. CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. By employing the CRAAP Test while evaluating sources, a researcher reduces the likelihood of using unreliable information. The CRAAP is used mainly by higher education librarians at universities.
The first step toward knowing if a source is reliable is to check its currency. Currency means that the information found is the most recent. That said, students and educators may ask where the information was posted or published. Next, they look to see if the information has been revised or updated and whether the research assignment can rely on multiple sources in different platforms. The topic is also taken into consideration of whether it needs current news, media, or the latest findings from research or that can be found from older sources as well. These questions are important because they help pinpoint recent trends of the information and also exhibit the constant research changes that are spreading rapidly as technology expands now and in the future. If the source comes from a website, the links to access it must be working.
When looking at sources, the relevance of the information will impact a well rounded research endeavor. One question in this category to ask is how does the topic relate to the information given in a source? More importantly, the writers of the references should focus on the intended audience. There are a vast number of topics and an increase in access to information. Therefore, the relevance of the information helps the audience know what they are looking for. Also, there is a check-in about whether the data is at an appropriate level of comprehension, that is, the degree must not be too elementary or advanced for the students' or educators' needs. Because of the variety of sources, educators can do their best to keep an open mind about source usage. Moreover, they should decide if they feel comfortable enough to cite the source.
There is, however, not only the currency and relevance of the given source, but also its authority to consider. This is significant because the students and educators will look to see who is the author, publisher, or sponsor before they can trust the information. Their education level and the author's affiliations are important because this can help the readers know if the author is qualified to write on the topic. There should also be a contact information of the publisher or author. The authority of the source helps the students or educators know that the information can be used and trusted in a proper manner. Authority in citing a source establishes a trust boundary between the reader and the author of the works.
Emphasizing the trustworthiness of sources, the accuracy of the contents in the source must connect back to the origin. Evidence must support the information presented to the audience. Evidence can include findings, observations, or field notes. The report must be reviewed or referred. It must be verifiable from another source or common knowledge. That said, the language used in the sources has to be unbiased or free of emotion, because of its use for fact retrieval. The content in the source should be free of spelling, grammar, or typographical errors.
The purpose of the sources helps the readers know whether the information they are looking for is right for their research. The questions that arise when looking for the purpose range from informing, teaching, selling, entertaining, research or even self-gaining purposes. Also, the author's intentions should be clear. Certain aspects should be taken into consideration whether the information given is fact, opinion, or propaganda as well as political, personal, religious, or ideological bias. Knowing the purpose of the information helps researching for sources a lot easier.
The test was implemented by Sarah Blakeslee during the Spring of 2004 when she was creating a first year workshop to first-year instructors. Sarah was frustrated that she could not remember the criteria for looking up different sources. After much thought, she came up with the acronym. She wanted to give students an easier way to determine what sources are credible. One of the other evaluation tests that came before the CRAAP test is the SAILs test which stands for Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills. This test was created in 2002 by a group of librarians at Kent State University after the request that there needs to be an assessment test for students to determine their fluency in important sources. The SAILS test focuses more on the scores as a quantitative measure of how well students look up their sources. While the SAILS test is more specific in its terms of evaluation, it shares the same objectives as the CRAAP test.
Since its creation from CSU Chico, other universities have started using the CRAAP test to help with website evaluation. In her article, Cara Berg, a reference librarian and co-coordinator of user education at William Paterson University emphasizes website evaluation as a tool for active research. At her university, for example, library instruction varies in between 300 different classes, each in different subjects that require some type of research that require students to look up sources. It is "heavily marketed" but optional for classes and not mandatory. Website evaluation using the CRAAP test was incorporated as part of the first year seminar for students at this university, to help them hone their research skills.
When the CRAAP test was first implemented, there were some technical challenges. The workshop for website evaluation felt rushed and in most cases, the librarian are not able to cover it all at once. To fix this problem, they developed a flip method in which the librarian covered the first two parts of the workshops which consist of finding a book using the library's catalog, finding an article using one of the databases, and then allowing students to complete the website evaluation with an assignment to look up sources. Many students did not comprehend that they need to check the website and instead looked at the content. Some students complete the test but left out parts of the directions. After students completed the tests for CRAAP, they were given another assessment using Google Forms or Survey Monkey after a change of teaching methods was implemented in 2015. With more specific details, the students were able to complete the CRAAP test and successfully identify the trustworthiness of the sources. There was an increase in the responses which benefited students greatly.
The CRAAP test is generally used in library instruction as part of a first-year seminar for students. Students were required to participate in this class as a part of the graduation requirement at William Paterson University. Besides using the CRAAP method in English courses, many other courses have been using this method as well, such as science and engineering classes. The test is applied the same way as the website evaluation and is used universally in all courses. Examples of universities that use the CRAAP test include Central Michigan University, Benedictine University, Community College of Baltimore County, among the many examples. There are other schools that use the test as a way for students to do well on their assignments in subjects that require research papers.
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