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Finding Information: Assessing and Improving Result Quality

Introduction to Assessing and Improving Result Quality

Quality refers to whether found sources possess characteristics indicative of high reliability, validity, and accuracy. In most cases, high-quality sources will:

  • Be current or timely to your information need,
  • Be accurate, evidenced, and peer-reviewed (where possible!),
  • Be authored or published by a trustworthy and reliable individual or organisation,
  • Serve a clearly identifiable, impartial, and unbiased purpose.

You can assess source quality using the CRAAP test. CRAAP stands for:

  • Currency 
  • Relevance
  • Authority 
  • Accuracy 
  • Purpose

Assessing and Improving Result Quality


Currency refers to the timeliness of the information, specifically the date when the information was published or last updated.

The currency of a source is crucial in determining its relevance and usefulness, as some information may become outdated or less accurate over time. The importance of currency varies depending on the nature of the information being sought. For example, information related to science, technology, and current events may require up-to-date sources, while historical or philosophical information may not be as time sensitive. It's crucial to keep your information needs in mind and assess how the currency of the source might affect the accuracy of the information you seek. Ask yourself if the currency of the source is a relevant factor in your decision-making process.

Top Tips for Evaluating Currency
  • Check when the information was published or posted and whether it has been updated or revised since then.
  • If you're using print resources, check if there is a newer edition or version available.
  • For webpages, make sure all the links are functional and the information is up to date.


Authority refers to the reliability and expertise of the author, publisher, or source of the information.

An authoritative source is one that is recognized as knowledgeable, trustworthy, and credible in a particular field or subject area. The authority of a source can depend on various factors, such as the author's credentials, the level of expertise demonstrated, or and the reputation of the publisher.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are different types and levels of authority. While may be the most authoritative voice on UK policy and legislation, it may not be as useful for understanding the impact of such policies at a micro-level. In such cases, we may need to turn to sources such as newspaper articles, blog posts, and social media.

As always, evaluating the authority of sources is determined by our information needs. Different situations may require different types and levels of authority to obtain the most appropriate and accurate information.

Top Tips for Evaluating Authority
  • Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials, qualifications, or organisational affiliations?
  • Is contact information provided (an email address or source publisher)?
  • Does the domain name reveal anything about the source? URLs will generally end with one of the below domain names – this can tell us a lot about the author’s affiliations and intentions:
    • .gov = government
    • / .edu = education
    • .org = professional organisation or non-profit
    • / .com = commercial
    • .net = general purpose namespace


Accuracy refers to the correctness and truthfulness of information.

An accurate source provides information that is free from errors, bias, and misinformation. Accuracy is a crucial factor in determining the credibility and usefulness of an information source, as it ensures that the information provided is reliable and trustworthy.

At times, inaccurate information is just frustrating -- an outdated bus schedule, incorrect business hours, or an incomplete reference in a lecture slide deck. However, there are situations where inaccurate information can have severe consequences on our success and well-being, be it in our personal or professional lives.

Misinformation and disinformation are two types of inaccurate information that are commonly found on the internet. Misinformation refers to incorrect or misleading information that is presented as factual, either intentionally or unintentionally. Examples of this can be seen in the spread of fake news on social media during significant global events. In contrast, disinformation is a form of propaganda that involves intentionally spreading false information to deceive people. This is also referred to as black propaganda.

Top Tips for Evaluating Accuracy
  • Where has the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been peer-reviewed?
  • Can you verify the information from personal knowledge or information found in another source?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?


Purpose refers to the reason why a particular source was created. Understanding the purpose of a source is essential when evaluating its relevance, credibility, and usefulness.

Different sources are created for different purposes; this is an important consideration when deciding whether to use them or not. For instance, a scholarly article in a peer-reviewed journal is created with the purpose of advancing knowledge in a specific field and providing a rigorous analysis of a topic. On the other hand, a blog post or an opinion piece in a newspaper may have the purpose of expressing personal views or providing commentary on a particular issue. Evaluating the purpose of an information source can help determine if it aligns with your information needs and research goals. It can also help assess potential biases or hidden agendas that may affect the accuracy and reliability of the information presented in the source.

Typically, we look for sources that present information in an objective and factual manner. However, there are instances where we may also require sources that have a clear bias, express partiality, or present opinions. The process of evaluating sources is influenced by our specific information needs. Depending on what we're looking for, different types of sources will be more appropriate than others -- it's all about context!

Top Tips for Evaluating Purpose
  • What is the purpose of the information?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact or opinion? Is it opinion masquerading as fact?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are their political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Consolidate Your Knowledge

Answer the questions below to consolidate your understanding of CRAAP. 


Improving Result Quality

When conducting research or seeking information, it's essential to evaluate sources to ensure their credibility, accuracy, and relevance to your needs. This is true regardless of where you look for information, be it a book, a website, or a social media post. However, by adapting your search strategy, you can improve the efficiency of your search and reduce the amount of time spent on evaluating low-quality sources.

Click the drop-downs below to find out more.