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Evaluate information sources

Thumbs upEvaluating information is an essential part of the research process. You need to be sure that the information you have found is reliable.

This section will cover::

  • How to evaluate information sources before you rely on them for your research
  • Why Google is not the best place to find information
  • Fact-checking and fake news.

Criteria for evaluating information

When you search, remember that not all resources contain quality information. Some information may be inaccurate, biased, misleading, outdated or irrelevant.

It is important to critically evaluate the information you find to ensure that you use the best sources in your assignments. One way to do this is to use a series of questions or criteria, such as the C.R.A.A.P. Test (.pdf), developed by the California State University, Chico.

C.R.A.A.P. stands for:

When was the information published? Is it outdated?
Does the information meet the requirements of your assignment?
Does the author have the right credentials and experience to write about the topic?
Are the facts verifiable and is evidence provided for assertions made?
What is the author's intent? To inform? Teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade?


Video icon Watch this video from the University of South Australia to learn more about how to evaluate information.

University of South Australia (23 October 2017) ‘Study Help: Evaluating Information’ [video], University of South Australia, YouTube website, accessed 22 February 2023.

Searching Google

Google is a great starting point for your assessment and the only place to find certain types of information such as government and organisational reports and policy documents. However, not all Google sources are trustworthy.  

Watch this video to find out why Google isn't the only place you should search for information.

RMIT University Library (20 July 2021) ‘Why can’t I just google it?’ [video], RMIT University Library, YouTube website, accessed 22 February 2023.

Be aware that Google filters and personalises your search results based on your location and search history.  Even in Incognito mode, your search results retain some filtering and will be similar. 

DuckDuckGo provides private, unfiltered searching.  You can deselect Australia to search more globally, or select a particular region to focus your results.

It is important to evaluate web and social media sources to ensure that they are reliable.  In addition to the C.R.A.A.P. test, the following methods are particularly useful for critically reviewing information found on the web.

The SIFT method

  • STOP before you read, share or use the information
  • INVESTIGATE the source
  • FIND better or other coverage
  • TRACE claims, quotes and media back to the original context.

Lateral Reading is one way of doing this.

  • Before diving (vertically) into a website of interest, open new tabs (laterally) on your browser and start researching the author or owner of the site, and verify the information from other sources.

Fact checking and 'fake news'

When researching your assignments, you also need to be wary of deliberately created misinformation and 'fake news'. Some news stories that appear to be genuine may actually be hoaxes or lies created with the intention to deceive readers and viewers.

This infographic from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) provides some useful strategies to help you evaluate news stories and determine which are legitimate and which are not.

Click on the image to open the accessible PDF version of the infographic.

How to spot fake news

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) 2017, How to spot fake news, image, accessed 3 December 2019, <>.

Fact-checking websites also help to combat the dissemination of 'fake news'.

Some recommended websites include:

If you are interested in learning more, RMIT University also has a Fact Checking library guide and offers a Fact Check Credential.