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Evaluating Sources

Evaluate websites and other sources of information for relevance, accuracy, authority, purpose, and timeliness.

Evaluation is Essential

Evaluating the sources of the information you find, whether in print or digital format, is an essential aspect of doing research. The criteria for evaluation (relevance, accuracy, authority, purpose and timeliness) are interconnected. Take everything into account to determine how well the source addresses your specific needs. TRAAP is a useful way to remember the criteria. 

TRAAP - Criteria for Evaluation


 birds escaping cage


Escape the information trap! 

Evaluate each source of information using these five criteria: 


How timely does the information need to be for your purpose? Some information changes rapidly, so you’ll need the most up-to-date and current sources. In other areas, older information is fine.

  • What is the date of publication or copyright? Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information presented in the work itself current or out of date for your research needs?
  • Is the information timely for your topic? Sometimes an older source will give you a good overview, but you’ll want to supplement it with newer sources for the latest developments.


  • Does this source help answer your research question?
  • How is the information useful to you?
  • How detailed is the information? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Relevance is intermixed with all the other evaluation criteria.


  • Who created the content? Is there a named author or group of authors? What are the author’s credentials? Is the author affiliated with reputable organization?
  • Have the author(s) published other information on the topic? Are they experts in this topic?
  • If no author is named, is the information published or posted by an organization that has a credible reputation?
  • Search other websites to verify the credibility of the author or organization.


  • Is the information logical, well organized and supported by evidence?

  • Does the author quote statistics from a reliable source, refer to research studies, identify experts or include interviews with experts on the topic? 

  • Is the material in line with other reputable sources, or does it diverge drastically?


  • Who is the intended audience? Professionals, scientists, academics or other specialists? Students? Children? Popular/general reader?
  • Why did the author publish the information? To inform, educate, analyze, advocate, sell, or entertain?
  • What political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal perspectives and biases are evident? Does the web site exist to promote an agenda?

Credibility Depends on Context

An information source's context--where it came from, its audience, format, and how it is used--help determine authority, appropriateness and relevance.

  • Students recognize that credibility may vary by context and information need.
  • Students understand the importance of critically assessing a source's credibility.
  • Students are able to identify how a credible source could be used for a particular need.

A CRAB - Evaluative Criteria

A CRAB is another way to think about the evaluation criteria. It is basically the same as TRAAP, with Currency instead of Timeliness and Bias instead of Purpose. 

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000