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Citing Sources: Evaluate Sources

Guides for citing sources in MLA and APA format

E.S.C.A.P.E. Junk News

Need to E.S.C.A.P.E. junk news? Use the six ways below to evaluate information.  Created by NewseumEd, who provides "free learning tools on media literacy and our First Amendment Freedoms."

E - Evidence

  • Do the facts hold up? Look for information you can verify--names, stats, places, quotes, etc.

S - Source

  • Who made this and can you trust them? Trace who touched the story--authors, publishers, sponsors, funders, social media users, etc. 

C - Context

  • What's the big picture? Consider if this is the whole story and weigh other forces surrounding it--current events, cultural trends, political goals, financial pressures

A - Audience

  • Who is the intended audience? Look for attempts to appeal to specific groups or types of people--image choices, presentation techniques, language, content

P - Purpose

  • Why was this made? Look for clues to the motivation--the publisher's mission, persuasive language or images, moneymaking tactics, stated or unstated agendas, calls to action

E - Execution

  • How is this information presented? Consider how the way it's made affects the impact--style, grammar, tone, image choices, placement and layout

The CRAAP Test

If you want to judge whether a source is reliable, take the CRAAP Test.  This is a series of questions about the source's Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.


The timeliness of your source

  • How old is this source?
  • Is a date listed?
  • Is the information current or outdated for your topic?
  • Does your topic deal with recent issues (technology, medicine, etc) that need the latest information?


How the source meets your information need

  • Is this source useful for my topic?
  • Does the information help to answer or shed light on my research question?
  • Is the language/information appropriate for my level of understanding? Who is the intended audience?
  • Is this an appropriate source for a college paper?


Who or what the information comes from

  • Who is the author/publisher/sponsor of the source?  Is this hard to find?
  • Is the author or publishing organization an expert on the topic?  What are their credentials?
  • Are they qualified to write about this topic?
  • Is the source published, sponsored, or endorsed by a special interest group?
  • If it's a website, is it hosted by a for-profit company (.com) by a non-profit organization (.org), by an educational institution (.edu) or by the government (.gov)?  


The reliability and accuracy of the information

  • Do you notice any factual errors? Math or calculation mistakes? Statements that contradict each other?
  • Is the information presented supported by evidence?
  • Does this source say things that can't be verified?
  • Has the source been reviewed or refereed?
  • Are there lots of typos, spelling and grammatical errors?


The reason this source exists

  • What is the purpose of the source? To inform? Teach? Entertain? Sell something?  Persuade?
  • Does the source present facts, opinions, or propaganda?
  • Are different perspectives on the issue presented? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Not living up to all of these criteria doesn't automatically make a source "bad." But a source should meet most of these criteria, and it's important to recognize when a source doesn't pass the CRAAP Test.


Fake News

Don't forget about evaluating "fake news" either! Everyone talks about it, but did you know that your social media feeds are full of fake news? Take a look at the documents below for tips on identifying fake news.   

Types of Fake News: Parody/Joke Sites, News Imposter Sites, Fake News Sites, Sites that Contain Some Fake News

Still have questions about fake news? Take a look at this article by Steve Inskeep from NPR: "A Finder's Guide To Facts."