Using the CRAP Test to Identify False News, Misinformation, and Alternative Facts Online

Session Description
With the rise of social media and the virtually continuous connection to the Internet, we have seen the spread of false information in many fields at an alarming rate; this is particularly true if a story or an article goes “viral”. Being correct, being accurate or being healthful are not criteria for going viral. False news can spread quickly.

Many of the health science fields—medicine, health, nutrition and fitness—are overrun with websites created by people with little to no science background and questionable credentials. Alternative facts and embellished information have been used in growing numbers by those in nutrition, health, supplement and fitness industry and most recently in government sources. Finding reliable online information and dependable resources can be challenging for students, faculty and the public at large. Teachers, professors, researchers and librarians can help by providing students with helpful easy-to-use research tools for them to use.

To assist college nutrition students in identifying how to find reliable resources, they were assigned to utilize a simple tool, the CRAP Test, as part of a “Nutrition in the News” assignment. For this assignment, students research and review current online news or website articles on health and nutrition topics and then post their thoughtful insights in the online discussion board to share with classmates. Student are also required to respond to several of their classmates’ posts. The well-liked course assignment was recently modified to require that students use the CRAP Test to research their own nutrition posts as well as an abbreviated version (CARP Checklist) to evaluate their classmates’ posts.

The CRAP Test is a helpful acronym that enables students and researchers to determine if a resource being viewed is a reliable one. The CRAP test abbreviations stand for Currency, Reliability, Authority/Accuracy, Purpose/Point of View. The test comes with a series of questions for the online researcher to answer when evaluating websites and web articles.

In this general session participants will learn about the CRAP test, a handy question list to use when evaluating online resources and the shortened CARP checklist to quickly check websites for usefulness and reliability. Participants will be invited to share their own ideas and resources for distinguishing reliable online information from false new and alternative facts. Participants will leave this session with tips to incorporate the easy-to-use reliability tools into online courses.

  • Kirsti Dyer, Columbia College, Sonora, California, USA
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