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Using the CARP Test to Evaluate Information

With fake news and alternative facts clogging the search engine results, how do our students know what’s actually true? Learning how to critically evaluate sources becomes a necessary skill for students researching for both academic and personal purposes.

Teaching your students about skills, such as the CARP test, to evaluate sources is a great way for them to begin to think critically when visiting websites. Even if the website isn’t being used for academic research purposes, it’s always a good idea for students (and everyone!) to know some basic tools to evaluate the information source.

So, what is a CARP test? CARP is an acronym to help students remember the criteria for evaluating sources.

Currency

How up-to-date is the information you’re looking at? Students can evaluate the currency of an article by first looking at the date it was published. If the article was posted awhile ago, was it ever updated? For example, an article on a rapidly-changing topic, such as technology, that was published more than a year ago wouldn’t have the most current information. Instead, use advanced search tools, like filtering by date published, to find an article that is more current. 

 

Authority

What is the source of the information? Students can evaluate the authority of information by first determining who the author of the article is, or who published or sponsored the content. Next, determine what their qualifications are. Are they qualified to write on this topic? Another great way to determine authority is to find out which other sites link back to the one you’re on by using the linkto: search feature. For example, if I wanted to see which sites linked to an article I was reading on NASA’s website, I would search  “linkto:nasa.gov”.

 

Reliability

How accurate is the information? When evaluating the reliability of a source, the first thing to check is if there are any obvious falsehoods on the page. If there are, move on to another source! Next, check the links on the page to see if they link out to relevant sites. The more the article links to relevant sites and has references or citations to support what they’re saying, the more reliable of a source it is.

 

Purpose/Point of View

What is the reason this information exists? Examine the tone and intent of the information. Was it created to inform, sell, persuade, or entertain? Next, evaluate if there are biases present. For example, if you’re using a Wikipedia article as a source, it should be informational, written with a neutral point of view, and contain only facts, not opinions.

 

Older students can be introduced to CRAAP (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose), which uses the play on words to encourage them to use the tool when researching.

For more a more in-depth look at how you can help students slow the spread of fake news, check out this blog post.

Have you taught the CARP test, or another version of it, to your students to evaluate information sources? How successful was it? Let us know in the comments!

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