45 Finding Quality Texts

The best place to find quality information is your institution’s library—you can physically go to the library or search it online.

Your library:

  • Gives you access to a world of source materials that have already been reviewed and approved by the librarian staff.
  • Allows you free database access that would be extremely expensive if purchased as a non-student. For example, accessing an EBSCO online database (one of the best college research standards) can cost $40-50 per article! Fortunately, the same article would be free through your college library.
  • Provides current, constantly updated sources.
  • Allows you to obtain materials that your library may not have through interlibrary loan, where your library will contact other libraries to get you the materials you need.
  • Provides study spaces, tutoring, research assistance, and other aids.
  • Gives you access to librarians—the library’s greatest resource. Where a library database can give you thousands of results in response to a search, the librarian can help you figure out where to start looking, or what search terms to use. They can answer any and all of your questions relating to research.


Many college libraries have adopted a new set of guidelines for helping students find good materials. It’s called the CRAP Test. CRAP is an acronym for Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose. The original CRAAP Test was created by Sarah Blakeslee of the University of California at Chico’s Meriam Library and included another A for Accuracy, which is combined with Reliability here.

C: Currency

  • Is this the most recent material you can find?
  • Is the material recent enough to accurately represent your topic?
  • Has it been updated recently?
  • For electronic sites, does the site appear modern and up to date?

R: Reliability

  • Is the material objective?
  • Can you detect any obvious bias or loaded language?
  • Are sources available to back up the piece?
  • Is it well written and free of errors?

A: Authority

  • Does the author have degrees, experience, or other expertise in the topic area?
  • Is the host source reliable, i.e., a respected newspaper versus an individual blog?
  • Is the publisher reputable and well known?
  • Do you have a sense of trust for the author?

P: Purpose and Point of View

  • What is the material’s creator trying to accomplish? Are they trying to inform? Persuade? Push their own agenda? Convince you to buy something?
  • Does the site include advertising or click-bait?
  • Does the article seemed aimed at a specific audience?

If the material you are researching can not answer these questions satisfactorily, it is CRAP, and you shouldn’t use it.

Can You Also Find Good Material on the Internet?

Of course. But doing so can be tricky. Think for a moment. If you’ve found a website or resource you feel might be useful, how do you convince yourself that it follows the CRAP approach?

Keep in mind that your academic work is different from your day to day activities. For instance, we may surf the Web for a number of different reasons, perhaps for pleasure, out of boredom, or chasing links. We can search and read as we like; nothing is at stake, so to speak.

But in your academic work, there’s plenty at stake. Part of doing solid work in your education has to do with finding strong source materials and using them correctly and effectively.

Domain name endings

The domain name ending refers to the letters that follow the period at the end of a Web address (also called a url, or uniform resource locator). For example, .com, ,edu, and .org are all domain name endings.

Example of a Web address:

Example of a domain name ending: .com

Different domain name endings refer to different kinds of websites and can be related to the quality of the site’s material. Therefore, you have to examine them to decide whether they’re reliable. Here are some examples:

  • .ca/.com: may be commercial or personal sites. These may be considered less academically reliable sources because anyone can create one; they may used for private blogs, web pages, and other personal uses or for commercial purposes and sales. .ca can refer to a Canadian-specific site with these criteria, while .com is international. **.ca sites can also be reputable sites within Canada that can fall under any of the following criteria:**
  • .org: these used to belong solely to non-profit sites, such as The American Cancer Society. But these days, anyone can purchase and use a .org site for any purpose. Thus the content on a .org site may vary widely in terms of its authority.
  • .edu: educational sites, usually maintained by colleges and universities but sometimes by high schools as well. These sites are considered to be very reliable.
  • .gov and .mil: government and military sites, maintained by the governments and the military. These sites are considered to be very reliable.
Tip: You can check when a website has last been updated in several different ways—do a simple Google search for many sites that will walk you through the process.

Let’s look at a couple of website examples and see how they hold up to the CRAP Test:

The Canadian athlete, author, and Vega cofounder Brendan Brazier uses a .com site, Visit his site and answer the CRAP Test.

  • C: Is it current? Yes, it is. He is continually adding new materials and updating the site.
  • R: Is it reliable? Yes. Brazier has many endorsements of his material and reviews on his website.
  • A: Is it authoritative? Yes. Brazier’s About page is full of references to his education, experience, and authority in his field. He is a highly respected nutritionist and athlete.
  • P: What is its purpose? Brazier’s website’s purpose is to provide a portal for information about himself, his books, and his magazine; to book him for a speaking engagement; and to learn about his nutrition philosophy.
  • Result? This website only provides a small amount of information on nutrition. Although it passes the first three points of the CRAP Test, its purpose is not designed for academic research.

Let’s try another one. The .org site, may appear, at first glance, to be a reliable site. But not all .org sites are reliable. Let’s look closer:

  • C: Is it current? Although the date at the bottom looks recent, an exploration of the site will show a reliance on articles that are outdated or lead to broken links. This is a problem, because a topic that changes as quickly as one like technology must rely on current and constantly updated materials. No—we cannot say this is current.
  • R: Is it reliable? The site does not provide a list of authors. Clicking “About” at the bottom of the page leads to a set of names that do not click through to the actual organizations—a bad sign. Further, it says it was “created by the National Consumer Advocacy Commission.” But a Google search reveals that this organization doesn’t exist! So we’ll give “reliable” a big NO.
  • A: Is it authoritative? Again, this is a no. The materials used are not current, and many lead to broken links. The comments tend to use biased language and seem more focused on persuasion (or even manipulation) toward a certain view than on presenting facts.
  • P: What is its purpose? The purpose seems to be to convince readers that there are no dangers or hazards associated with cell phone use. We know that’s untrue, and so again, this fails the test.
  • Result? fails the CRAP Test.

Don’t get discouraged! It only takes a few minutes to keep searching for a reliable source, but it will take a lot longer to redo an assignment or worse, retake a course because you don’t have good enough sources for your major assignments!


In many cases, it’s easy to find an author’s name on an online site. Evaluate the author fully—don’t just assume they know what they’re doing.

  • Do they have the right academic credentials or professional experience to back up their authority? For instance, someone who’s spent their life as a short-order cook wouldn’t be considered an authority on astronomy, nor would a PhD-level astronomer be considered an expert on the art of donut making.
  • Have they published work in the field?
  • Does a quick review of the topic or field suggest that they’re a known expert in that area?

Sometimes pages will list an author’s bio, resume, or curriculum vitae (CV) on the site, allowing you to find out more about their education, work, and publication history. You can always do a Web search to find out more about them.

You can also find out about the reliability of an author by seeing if other reputable sites cite them.

Sometimes an online site will look good but won’t show an author’s name. Does that mean you shouldn’t trust the site? Not necessarily. Many sites employ a staff of writers or freelance writers to create content on the site but don’t list the author’s name.

Periodical sites may post articles that don’t credit an author. Many of these sites have their own department of journalists, writers, and freelance writerswho create their content; these writers are often not credited individually.

Information/Page Date

You’ll want to check to see if the material you’re looking at has a date. As a general rule, the more current the date on the material, the better—especially if you’re discussing something that undergoes near-constant change, like politics, science, or technology.

Scrolling to the bottom of a web page will often reveal a “last update” date at the bottom, and this can help your decision process. If you can’t locate any dates on the material and the website hasn’t been updated in years, you should probably find a better source.

But sometimes, information can be dated and still be useful. For instance, if I was writing a paper about  transportation infrastructure in Canada adapting to changing demands of growing populations, I could use sources from any era in our transportation history to show a trend in how Canada has always been growing to support the increased movement of people in our country. If I was writing about current driving with cell phone-use fines across the provinces, I would need the newest information.

Other Points to Check

Consider the visual layout and appeal of the page:

  • Does it look modern or dated (as if someone hasn’t updated it in years)?
  • Are there lots of advertisements or direct attempts to sell products?
  • Are there pop-ups that interfere with navigating or reading the page?

And take a look at the page content:

  • Are the articles or content well written and carefully proofread? Do they “sound” authoritative and feel reliable?
  • Do articles include links to other materials or links to credible and/or reliable source materials?  Has content been carefully edited, or can you detect lots of errors?
  • Is the language intelligent and objective? Or does it include biased language, slang, rude, or negative words?
    • For example, let’s imagine you were researching a question of why people buy beverages in single-use plastic bottles.
    • An objective, fact-based statement: Studies show that many people buy beverages in single-use plastic bottles because the bottles are convenient, easy to carry, and available just about anywhere.
    • A biased, non-factual statement: Let’s face it—most people who buy single-use plastic bottles are just too lazy to carry reusable bottles. Or they just don’t care if they single-handedly destroy the environment.

Look in the Right Places

Start your search in the right place. When looking for a specific piece of evidence, don’t just automatically type a word into Google: instead, ask yourself, “What’s the best place I might find this?” While thinking about the subject, consider the persons or organizations that are experts on the topic, and try beginning a search with those names.

If you begin in the right place, you’re more likely to find useful information right away, and it’s more likely to be credible. Likewise, try and find the best human sources as well. With a little research on your topic, you can identify the big names in the field.

Don’t always start by turning to the Internet and Google. Yes, this may be the easiest way to go, but is it always the best? No—not always. Visit your institution’s library, or search it electronically. Read textbooks or periodicals. Seek out human experts. Put your hands on your topic, if you can, by diving into it in a personal way. Try making an observation, conducting a survey, or interviewing a subject.

Tip: Whenever you identify a good printed source—book, journal, etc.—go to the end of it and read the bibliography. This will give you a brand new list of potential source materials on the same or similar topic.

Exercise: Evaluating a Website

Part 1: Consider what you’ve just learned about currency, reliability, accuracy, and purpose or point of view to help you evaluate the academic merit of a source.
Keep these qualities in mind as you explore one (or more) of these sites.

Part 2: Answer and consider the following.

  1. What was your first impression when you first glanced at the site? Why did you have this impression?
  2. Explore the site a little—clicking links, reading content, looking for authors and dates and so forth.
  3. Did your opinion change? Why? What did you discover? Would you rely on the site for your academic work? Does it meet the CRAP test?

What About Finding Good Materials in print periodicals?

Follow the same guidelines given above for finding strong Web materials. Look at the author, date, and the material. Consider the publication itself: a mainstream, respected newspaper or magazine—like The Globe and Mail or The National Post—more or less automatically meets our CRAP test, while smaller or local publications may require a detailed evaluation.

Text Attributions

  • This chapter was adapted from “Finding Quality Texts” in The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear, which is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 Licence. Adapted by Allison Kilgannon.


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Advanced English Copyright © 2021 by Allison Kilgannon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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