The outpouring of support shown for libraries every year shows the fond place libraries hold for many of us, even among those who may not be regular library users. But when it comes to research, libraries - once the first point of call for most projects - have slid into second place or lower, unable to match the convenience offered by internet search engines.
When compared to the ease of tapping a couple of words into Google, it is perhaps understandable that people shy away from electronic libraries, with their multiple login screens to hurdle and their long lists of resources and databases. But by giving into the pressures of time, we can miss out on the riches libraries have to offer – in particular, access to authoritative, scholarly sources. By relying on open information online, we expose ourselves, and our research, to the all the risks associated with un-monitored information, ranging from honest mistakes to malicious attempts to mislead. The stakes - as demonstrated by the debates currently roaring around fake news, social media, and potential election interference - have never been higher.
In a recent article, Time Magazine reported on a study in which an academic was shown a website and asked to judge if it was credible. Despite using criteria many of us rely on - presence of references, professional look of a site - the academic failed to spot a dubious resource (Steinmetz, 2018). If academics struggle, how can we expect undergraduates new to studying to fare any better when evaluating online information? The ability to evaluate information is essential, not just for students, but for all of us. With that in mind, we’ve produced the CRAAP video, a three minute guide to evaluating online information, summarised in the five points below. Simple questions perhaps, but practising this method can help students - and all of us - adopt a sophisticated, thoughtful approach to the information we consume.
Is this information CRAAP?
The timeliness of the information. When was the information published or posted?
The importance of the information for your needs. Does the information relate to your topic and answer your question?
The source of the information. Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
Whether the content is reliable, truthful and correct? Where does the information come from? Can you verify any of the information in another source?
The reason the information exists. Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?