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News Literacy: Evaluating Sources

Resources for faculty, instructors, and graduate students to teach news literacy skills.

Evaluating Sources

There are many methods out there to help students evaluate the content they see online. While they all share similarities, they are all distinct. Take a look at the few here to see which one you might want to use with your students.

Evaluating Information with the CRAAP Method

Information is literally at our fingertips.  But finding good information can be a little trickier.  By applying the CRAAP method when you evaluate sources, you will be able to differentiate between the good, the bad, and the ugly.  CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.  Use the questions posed below on your sources to see if they stack up!  

And remember, use the CRAAP Method on all information you come across!  


When was the information created? How old is too old?  Does the currency of the information matter? Has the material been updated or revised?  

Consider the importance of currency for the following sources: 

  • An article on cancer treatments written in 1970
  • A historical analysis of the Revolutionary War written in 1982
  • A book on computer programming written in 1995 



Is the information related to your research?  Does the information support your assignment?  Did you look at only one source?  Who is this written for?   

How relevant would the following sources be for your paper? 

  • a popular magazine article
  • the first 5 results in Google
  • the first 5 results in Discovery or one of the library's other databases



Who or what created the information?  Who or what is publishing the information?  What credentials, education, affiliations, or experience does the information creator have to write on this topic?  Can you find information about the author easily?  What can we tell from the domain of the website where the information has been published?  

Are the following authoritative sources? 

  • a tweet about a salmonella outbreak by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) 
  • a peer-reviewed article on medical marijuana written by a team of scientists 
  • The National Association of Social Workers' website and blog 



Is this information factual? Has it been peer-reviewed?  Is the information supported by evidence?  Does the author credit their sources?  Are there grammatical or spelling errors?  

Consider what these points might mean for a resource's accuracy:

  • numerous citations found throughout 
  • misuse of "they're" 
  • emotional language and tone 
  • unable to verify the information anywhere else 



Why was this information created?  Was the information created to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade you?  Is the purpose made clear? 

Remember: information can have political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal bias.  Is it fact, opinion, or propaganda?

What do you think the purpose of the following could be? 

  • an article written by Apple about the picture quality of the iPhone7
  • an article published by the NRA on gun control
  • a study funded by Coca-Cola on the connection between sugar and depression 


The CRAAP Method was developed by Meriam Library at California State University.

Evaluating Information with the ACT UP Method

In order to be responsible cultural producers of information (as opposed to being cultural consumers), we need to think critically about the resources we are using and citing in our projects. It is no longer enough to just say a resource is peer-reviewed or scholarly. We are now aware of the institutionalized oppressions that exist in the publication and dissemination of information. By definition, ACT UP means to act in a way that is different from normal. We know that normal usually means the patriarchy and the systemic oppression of poc and other marginalized groups' contributions to the conversation. To ACT UP, means to actively engage in dismantling oppressions and acting upwards to create a more socially just system.


Who wrote it? 

  • What do you know about the author(s)?
  • Is the author qualified to speak on the topic?
  • What are their credentials?
  • Can you Google the author?
  • Find a LinkedIn page?
  • Anything else they wrote?

Domain name?

  • .edu, .org, .gov are more reliable than .com and .net

  • Be wary of domain names that have the word 'blogger' or 'wordpress' in the address as they indicate personal blogs. 

  • Pay attention to "". This usually indicates it is a fake site pretending to be a legitimate news site of the same name.

  • But, remember some domain names might be country specific like .ca for Canada.


How current is this resource? 

  • When was this resource written?
  • When was it published?
  • Does this resource fit into the currency of your topic? 
  • Using outdated research to backup a claim is lazy and irresponsible. 


How accurate/true is this information?

  • Does the language of the source contain words to evoke an emotional response?
  • Are there typos and spelling mistakes?
  • Can you verify any of the claims in other sources?
  • Dig deep! Verify the claims in multiple sources.
  • Here's some truth: just because you found something from a reputable site, doesn't mean the resource cannot contain shoddy research, misinformation, or false claims.



Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view?

  • Resources unless otherwise stated should be impartial.
  • Remember, bias is not always a bad thing as long as the source is explicit about their bias and agenda.
  • Keep in mind that Google's "personalization" can bias your results. Keep filter bubbles in mind!
  • What about confirmation bias? Does this affect the way you search and choose resources?



Check the privilege of the author(s).

  • Why is this research present in the database?
  • Are they the only folks that might write or publish on this topic?
  • Who is missing in this conversation?
  • Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you found. How are they described?
  • What are the inherent biases of the publishing industry and library classification systems?
  • The more you investigate, the more power you have to dismantle systems of oppression.


The ACT UP Method was developed by Dawn Stahura at Simmons College.


When encountering a claim that you are not sure is true, you need to find ways to get closer to the truth. Use these four moves and a habit to help you fact-check:

  1. Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  2. Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.
  3. Read laterally: Read laterally. Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.
  4. Circle back: If you get lost, hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

The habit: Check your emotions. When you feel a strong emotion about something you read online, stop and fact-check. When you feel overly happy or angry when you read a particular claim, you may not immediately think to fact-check because you think it confirms something you feel. Take those claims back through the four moves to verify.

Four Moves and a Habit was created by Mike Caulfield in Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

How to Spot Fake News

Sources to Evaluate

To get practice evaluating sources, have your students use one of the methods above as they read through one of these sources.

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