Skip to Main Content

Business: Critically Evaluate Information

Evaluation Checklists and Resources

Critically Evaluate Information

Critically Evaluating Sources 

For college-level research, you'll want to consider using only the highest-quality information sources that you can find. Between the internet and SU’s library, the “best” information can depend on the assignment. Here are some ways to determine the best information sources to lend support to your own research.

Use the C.R.A.P. method to evaluate information that you may consider using: (Currency, Relevance, Author expertise, and Purpose)


Consider each

Why is this important?

Is the source Current?

  • When was the source published?
  • If it’s a website, when was it last updated?
  • Does your topic require current information or more historical resources?
  • Can you find even more current sources than this one?

Check your research assignment directions. Some majors/disciplines require students to use only the most current scholarship in the field, while current scholarship is not important for others.

In the sciences, the most up-to-date research is often considered the most valuable. For example, a research study about new technology from ten years ago might be less important than a study conducted last year.

Is the source Relevant?

  • Does the source support your argument/idea/question?
  • Does the source meet your assignment requirements?
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?

Every single source that shows up in your work should be there for a reason and your reader should not have to guess what that reason is.

Every source that you include in your research work should be there to strengthen your idea or argument.

Is the Author an expert?

  • Authors of the source should be experts in some way. If you must use a scholarly source, an expert authority on the subject will have an advanced degree such as a PhD.
  • Is the author affiliated with a prominent organization or educational institution?
  • Can you find information about the author from reference sources or the internet? 

Consider an author’s credentials before you commit to using the information that they have made public. Experts often have advanced academic degrees, institutional affiliations, and long track records of publishing articles and books containing earlier research. Find author information:

In books – About the Author page

In articles from a database – the article citation or the article itself.

Website – the top or bottom of an article; the "about" page (if one exists); the very bottom of the webpage look to see if an organization claims copyright if the author's name cannot be found elsewhere

What is the source’s Purpose?

  • Is the author’s purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform?
  • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
    Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove the claim?
  • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

 An author’s bias can affect the validity or even the truthfulness of the information they have made public, treating one side of an issue more favorably than another. For example, an Apple website will claim its iPhone is the best in the world. Motorola will claim its Droid is the best. They both make this claim because they want to sell their phones.

Consumer Reports, an un-biased group who rates products, will study both phones and determine superiority based on what consumers desire and they make that viewpoint known to readers.

Using biased sources to support your ideas makes it easy for your audience to challenge the validity of your argument or analysis.







More questions to ask when evaluating an article or news source

Credit: The University of Texas Libraries, "Evaluating News Sources."

When reading a news article, consider the following.

  • What kind of article are you looking at?

    • News story: a factual, prose story for print or broadcast media about a person, place or event answering these five questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. A news story is written in the inverted-pyramid style, giving the most important information first and additional details later.

    • Editorial: a brief article written by an editor that expresses a newspaper's or publishing house's own views and policies on a current issue. If written by an outsider it normally carries a disclaimer saying the article does not necessarily reflects the publisher's official views.

    • Opinion piece: an article in which the writer expresses their personal opinion, typically one which is controversial or provocative, about a particular issue or item of news.

    • Advertisement: a paid, public communication about causes, goods, services, ideas, organizations, people, or places designed to inform or motivate. Words to look out for include "sponsored" or "paid advertisement."

  • What is the main point of the story? Do the headline and the lead support the main point of the story? 

    • The headline (title) and lead (the first sentence or two of an article; sometimes known as a "hook") do not always line up with the article's main point. 

    • When either of these sounds sensational or leading (You Won't Believe What Happened Next!), they could be fishing for views or clicks. i.e., click bait

    • Likewise, headlines displayed in social media or news wires do not always match the headline on the original source. While this may not discount the source itself, it is necessary to take notice of this.

  • Has the story answered the questions of Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

    • What is unknown, unanswered, or unclear should be acknowledged. 

    • Other sides should be given a chance to present their argument. 

    • Many breaking stories are incomplete or inaccurate due to deadlines and the 24hr news cycle. If more information is made available, the story should be updated accordingly. 

  • What evidence supports the main point of the story? What evidence has been verified? How was it verified? What evidence has not been verified? Is the evidence direct or indirect? 

    • Evidence is not the same as a source. Evidence is the proof a source offers. Evidence that is verified has been checked and corroborated via a stated method of verification.  

  • What kind of sources are cited in the article? Are they reliable? How do you know? 

    • A source is the person, report, or data being quoted in an article. 

    • Sources can be named or unnamed. Multiple or single. Credentialed or not. Close to the event/issue or not. Named, multiple, credentialed, close sources are preferred, though in some cases an anonymous source may not be named due to potential backlash or harm to the source for speaking out. 

    • When looking at reports or data as a source, be sure to look at the producer of the information. Do they have a stake in the event or issue that could make the report or data biased? 

  • Does the journalist/reporter/news source make their work transparent? How does the editorial board, the publisher, and the advertising department work together? Does the paper have a code of ethics? 

    • Finding out what influence different departments have or don't have on each other should be easy if it is a reputable source. 

    • A code of ethics, standards, or guidebook should be associated with the news source and easy to find.

    • Potential conflicts of interest or known associations should be stated up front in an article.

    • Funding and ownership of the media production should be publicly available.