Skip to Main Content

Critical Thinking and Reasoning

The aim of this guide is to aid students in the development of critical thinking skills and improve their ability to evaluate resources for use in research.


It can be a challenge to recognize credible and reliable information, not only in doing research but in everyday life. Numerous frameworks have been developed for evaluating information sources. Each takes its own approach and has different names for its elements, and each offers valuable criteria to use when filtering through sources.  Some academic disciplines prefer or recommend one technique over the others. In classes, use the framework recommended or required by your instructor for best results. But all checklists are asking the same questions--  who is responsible for the information, what is the purpose of the information, how credible is the information and is it relevant to my information need?


CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Use the CRAAP Test to evaluate your sources.

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  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?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?   

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

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?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    •  examples:
      • .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government)
      • .org (nonprofit organization), or
      • .net (network)

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

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?


  • Audience
    • Who is the intended audience?
    • Does the information relate to your topic?
  • Accuracy
    • Is the information in this source correct?
    • Can you verify the information?
    • Use critical thinking to evaluate the ideas and claims
  • Balance/Bias
    • Does it consider more than one viewpoint?
    • Does the information in the source support a particular agenda? 
    • Can you determine the author's aim, agenda, or affiliations?
  • Credibility
    • Is the author an expert in this field?
    • Can you verify the author's credentials?
  • Currency
    • Is the information up to date?

5 W's

Evaluating Sources Using the 5 Ws

There are many different methods for evaluating sources of information. One way to evaluate an information source is based on the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Who wrote it?

  • Author’s name
  • Contact information
  • Qualifications and/or credentials
  • Affiliations
  • Publisher or sponsoring organization

What kind of information does it have?

  • Does the information relate to your topic or help answer your question? (Note: this doesn’t mean that the information agrees with your argument.)
  • Is the information at the appropriate level for your research?
  • Intended audience

When was it written or last updated?

  • Date of publication
  • Date of revisions or updates
  • Does your topic require only the most current information, or are older sources acceptable?
  • Websites: Are the links functional?

Where did the content come from?

  • Are there references or citations? Is there a bibliography?
  • Was the information reviewed or refereed? By whom?

Why was the source created?

  • Point of view being presented
  • Bias
  • What is the information meant to do to the reader? (Inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade?)
  • Is the intention or purpose clearly stated?
  • Websites: What does the domain tell you? (Examples: .com – commercial; .gov – government; .org – organization (but what kind of organization are they?)

Adapted from a source evaluation test by Jessica Olin