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Psychology: Evaluating Sources

This guide provides you with quick access to the psychology resources at Columbia College Library

How to Spot Fake News

Infographic with tips on spotting fake news including: Considering the source, reading beyond the headline, checking the author, looking at supporting sources, checking the date, considering whether it is a joke, considering your biases,and asking the experts

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating sources is not a black or white process. Sources are usually not either "good" or "bad" though there are sources that the majority would agree are better or worse to use than others.

How you plan on using information also matters. Something you would share online with friends is not necessarily a source to use for an academic paper. 


The SCRAAPP test is a modified version of the CRAP/CRAAPP test. Using SCRAAPP can help you think critically about sources. Some of the criteria will be more or less important depending on how you plan to use the information. 

Self-Assessment: does the source confirm my own pre-existing beliefs?

Your own beliefs and assumptions about a topic will likely have an impact on what you think about a source. But when you're doing research, it's important to be open to ideas and evidence that challenges your beliefs. 

Currency: how current is the information?

  • When was the information created, published or updated? If the source was recently published, is it just rehashing old information as though it is new? 
  • Do I need sources that were published recently?  Are older sources OK or even preferable? 

Relevance: does the source satisfy my information needs? 

  • Is the source related to my research topic?
  • Who is the intended audience for the source? Children, the general public, academics?  
  • How does it help me better understand my topic?

Authority: who created the information?

  • Who is the creator or publisher of the information? Do they have a strong reputation? What are the author's credentials or affiliations? 
  • Is the author's expertise related to the subject? How did they become an authority on the topic?: through scholarship, or something else, like personal experience or social position? 

Accuracy: how accurate is the information? 

  • Was the information reviewed by others before being published? Does it contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? 
  • Is it fact or opinion? Do the authors leave out important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Is it clear how the author came to their conclusions? Are sources traceable? 

Purpose: why was the information created? 

  • Does the information exist to educate, inform, sell, entertain, or persuade? 
  • Is it biased? Do authors use strong or emotional language? Are various viewpoints considered? Whose viewpoints are considered and whose are left out? 

Process: what effort went into creating the information? 

  • How much reflection and research went into creating the information? Was it edited, peer-reviewed, or self-published? How was the information shared? 

Mike Caulfield's 4 Moves for Fact Checkers 

When you encounter information online, follow these steps to determine the trustworthiness of a claim. 

1. Check for previous fact-checking: Check these sites to see if an online article or claim has already been debunked:‚Äč

2. Go upstream to the original source: Websites rarely contain original content. To determine the trustworthiness of information found online, try to find the original source of information.

3. Read laterally: Once you've found the original source of information, see what other people say about the author or publication. Do they have a good reputation? 

4. Circle back: If you get stuck or find the claim is not trustworthy, start a new search using different keywords to find a different source and start the fact-checking process again. 

To learn more, read Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers