CRAAP is a common acronym that librarians have used to provide good “rules of thumb,” for students looking to find reliable sources:


Despite the fact that things like CRAAP can be rightly criticized for giving the impression that discerning credibility is easy, I think it still has its place. That said, I am more keen to delve into other areas – getting deeper into how this matter relates to human nature in general.

For years, I have began classes with the general question: “How can you be sure you have a reliable source?” and take it from there. Both the question and any answers to that question, of courses, demand that the issue of context is addressed, but I do think that there are basic principles that come into play here and I use the acronym PECC…

P = proximity, and, looking to journalism, has to do with the idea of “leather foot” journalism. Going to the eyewitnesses, valuing personal experiences with the topic at hand, the facts on the ground, etc. Very relevant when it comes to events, of course

E= education. We look to people who have the “know that,” or knowledge. We want to go to doctors that had good teachers in good schools. We don’t want degree-mill folks and certificates.

C= competence. Knowledge is not only about “know that,” but also “know how”. Can a person get the job done? Do they know what they are doing. Your mechanic might be a nice and honest guy, but is he good? Here, the brass tacks of putting knowledge into action is a key consideration.

C = character. Is the person honest and trustworthy? What is their record? Do they admit they are wrong? And even if they have all the “know that” and “know how” in the world, if you don’t think they really care about you, your ideas, your friends and family, etc., you might not give them the time of day, much less your attention.

It’s a list, but its not a checklist. More “rules of thumb”… not iron-clad and foolproof algorithms. : )

Maybe you can help me add to this list, but it seems to me that these are very concrete things people can identify with that apply very broadly. Of course, confidence when it comes to assertion is another thing we are drawn to, but depending on that, we know, is perilous.

Also, when I think about seeing these things in librarians, I think about the former LOC librarian Thomas Mann (now the author of the 4th edition to the Oxford Handbook of Library Research). Mann is the man. If you haven’t done so already, you really should check him out.