Evaluating sources

From experience I have noticed that most students are not able to transfer and use the knowledge and skill gained in one subject effortlessly into another subject. They tend to compartmentalize the subjects. This becomes more prominent when teachers do not collaboratively plan and execute their lessons leading to loss of opportunity for students to practice and gain fluency.

I recently observed this again during one of my counselling sessions. The skill in question was the use of CRAAP to evaluate sources. So I decided to write about this here.

As students are encouraged to research for their projects, assignments, group work etc, it is important to also teach them how to evaluate resources.

While some teachers do teach the use of CRAAP to critically evaluate the sources used, students on their own are not able to easily transfer the skills used in one subject to other subjects. Most of the times they need to be guided or nudged in that direction.

This simple technique can be used with students of all grades and in all subjects with slight modifications to adjust to their grade level as they progress to senior grades.

In fact students should make CRAAP part of all their submission. After all, practice does make perfect!

CRAAP is the acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose

They can create a table and in the first column cite the source. In the subsequent  columns they can write the reasons for CRAAP. Teachers can also prepare a checklist for use in their class as they teach research and referencing skills. The option given below, ‘Tick your option’ can be used for the same.

The explanation…

This is quite straightforward

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Tick your option: Yes, No, Not sure

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level?
  • Due you understand what you are using?
  • Does the use of this source show your depth of research and curation skill?

Tick your option: Yes, No, Not sure

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?  Examples:
    • com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Tick your option: Yes, No, Not sure

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased?

Tick your option: Yes, No, Not sure

Purpose: the reason the information was published

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the author(s) make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Tick your option: Yes, No, Not sure

When students use this checklist and evaluate each of the source they are thinking of using, it not only helps develop their critical thinking skills but also, add ‘academic value’ to what they are writing.

Teachers can start by either focusing on only one letter of the acronym at a time or few of the bulleted points for each acronym depending on the level of the students.

They can also help students practice CRAAP on the sources that the teachers have shared for the assignment as part of guided practice.

As students practice this skill, they become more aware of what they read and accept as facts.



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