Tip 21: CRAAP
For many of us within academia, the Internet has become the primary information receptacle for all our research needs. Physical library buildings reassure us that bound paper books still exist in some kind of orderly arrangement that librarians can explain, but we don’t go to such places much anymore because it’s just so much easier to sit down in front of our computer and do a Google search. With only a few key strokes, we’re assured of more results than we will ever be able to use. The problem is, a large percentage of those results are of questionable value for public education purposes. And since we’re supposed to be producing information that laypeople can rely on (that’s why they call us experts), the sources we use need to be reliable.
Now that we’re commonly in the deep recesses of the world’s virtual library, it makes sense to ask a librarian for help navigating it. Thankfully, the clever folk at Merriam Library at California State University, Chico, came up with the ultimate in appropriate tests for us to apply, which I promise you won’t have any trouble remembering. They call it CRAAP, for judging the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of what your search engine regurgitates. See http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf for details. Another excellent reference on this topic is at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/558/1/, from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab. Be careful out there!