Coined by Sarah Blakeslee (2004), CRAAP, an acronym, refers to five critical perspectives that literate audiences use to evaluate the authority of a source:
|Current research may reinforce or, alternatively, repudiate prior research.
|Does the information directly support your argument, or is it merely interesting?
|Who is the author and what are their credentials?
|Is the information from a reliable study or source? Is it verifiable?
|What can you determine about the source’s purpose? Does it have political, ideological, cultural, or other biases that may slant the information?
Scholarship is a conversation and ideas evolve over time. That’s why it’s so important to question whether the information you have is up to date. Thus, current research may reinforce or, alternatively, repudiate prior research.
Readers–and this is especially true of teachers in school settings as well as clients in professional contexts–find it condescending and boring when the rhetor goes on at length about an idea that anyone who did a moment’s of preliminary research, even a 30 second Google search, had already discredited.
The relevancy of a cited source relates to how well the source you have selected meets your information need.
Relevancy, when applied to quoted or paraphrased text, means that the point you are trying to make within the context of your text is directly supported by the text you have chosen to quote or paraphrase.
Judging the relevancy of a source can be trickier than you might think. If the source you desire to cite is very broad in its scope, ask yourself if the conclusions drawn in the article can be easily applied to your thesis statement. For example, a journal article concerning the frequency of cigarette smoking among men between the ages of 18 and 24 in the United States could apply to a paper about the percentage of young men on your college campus who smoke. On the other hand, articles that are very narrow in scope could be relevant if you are able to generalize its conclusions and apply them to your research topic. For example, a journal article about the effects that violent video games have on the ability of seven-year-old males to form healthy peer relationships with female students at school could be applied to a research paper about the generalized effects of playing violent video games on children.
There are other questions you should ask yourself when considering the relevancy of a potential source. These include:
- Who is the intended audience of the source? Is it too technical for you or your reader to understand?
- Have you looked at a variety of sources before selecting the one you’re considering? Have you distinguished between popular vs. scholarly sources
- Does the source support your claim?
In writing and speech, authority refers to the degree to which a writer or speaker’s text seems plausible, substantive. In most academic writing and workplace writing, writers and speakers aim to create a persona, voice, and tone that is authoritative. In other words, they want their audiences to believe what they have to say. To achieve that goal, they are likely to engage in rhetorical analysis to determine the sources and research methods their target audiences are likely to consider authoritative.
To learn more about how to assess authority, see Authority (in Writing & Speech)
Information from unreliable sources is not always true, up-to-date, or accurate. Using unreliable sources weaken the credibility of the writer, dilute the writer’s argument, and detract from the overall strength of the text.
While the Internet provides a plethora of information on almost any topic imaginable, not all of its content can be trusted. Students should be cautiously selective while doing research and avoid sources that may contain unreliable information:
- Popular and collective websites (ask.com, about.com, WebMD.com, etc.):
Websites such as these provide articles and information that has been collected from other sources that may not be reliable. While the sponsors of these sites usually employ writers who research the topics, citations for the sources of the data are not always provided.
Wikipedia is an online open-source encyclopedia, which means that it can be edited by anyone. While the information on the site is audited by a Wikipedia editor, the information found there may or may not be correct or current.
- Source material based solely on opinion:
While material that conveys opinions and beliefs may have some validity, reliable sources that back up the opinion or belief with facts and trustworthy information should also be sought. If the opinion piece does not include data from reliable sources, a writer may choose not to include it as a source.
Note: Some sources, such as Wikipedia, provide a works cited list or reference list. Some of the cited works may be reliable. To confirm the validity of a knowledge claim, check the original source and interpret the information yourself.
Where are credible, reliable sources found?
- Academic databases: These databases, such as Academic Search Premier and JSTOR, include searchable collections of scholarly works, academic journals, online encyclopedias, and helpful bibliographies and can usually be accessed through a college library website.
- Academic peer-reviewed journals: Journal articles that have been peer-reviewed are generally considered reliable because they have been examined by experts in the field for accuracy and quality.
- Google scholar: This Internet search engine helps the user to locate scholarly literature in the form of articles and books, professional societies’ websites, online academic websites, and more.
- Library reference or research desk: Library staff can provide useful services, such as assistance with the use of library research tools, guidance with identifying credible and non-credible sources, and selection of reliable sources.
When you come across new sources of information, you are wise to engage in rhetorical analysis: question the author’s purpose. Are they trying to sell you something? Or are they teaching or entertaining you?
|Keep a record of events or information
|Write in a journal, attempt to make sense of something or to shape a new idea
|Objectively report an event.
|Prove, in school, that you’ve learned course content.
|Report someone else’s words, theories, and research in your own words
|Help readers understand a difficult concept, theory, or event
|Break down a problem into parts
|Change minds, invoke action
|Speculate on possible causes and effects
|Bring joy, amazement, and thrills