Law students need to be ‘crap detectors’

Law students need to be 'crap detectors'

I came across this helpful article on ‘Helping Students Become 21st-Century “Crap Detectors” ‘ over on the Touro College Learning and Teaching Exchange blog written by Dennis Urban. It’s a great reminder that our law students need to be ‘crap detectors’

Scaffolding law students to read critically

The immediacy of online sources means that many law students are more inclined to use Google as a research tool.  For law students who might become lawyers, this is incredibly concerning. Clients are entirely reliant on the accuracy of our students’ advice and their ability to sort and sift ‘crap’. Law students need to be ‘crap detectors’ to be good lawyers.

Preaching abstinence from online sources, especially for law students pressed for time, is hardly a realistic option. We also tend to assume that they will read online sources, especially when we set assessments on, for example, the social and political perspectives on the law. Online commentary from different sources can provide interesting perspectives on the community’s image of lawyers and the law.  But we need to think about some prophylactic measures to support law students reading these types of information sources.

I have run lessons on reading online materials to determine their accuracy, trustworthiness or authority. But I wasn’t aware of this incredibly helpful guide published by the California State University, Chico.

The CRAAP test (which is both an acronym and a very clever way of getting law students to remember it) asks law students to assess a source’s Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority and Purpose (hence CRAAP) with some associated sub-questions.


On the surface, it might look like commonsense, especially to the cynical and jaded law school professor. But, as a means of scaffolding law students’ understanding, it can provide an invaluable tool.

If you use this, I would love to hear how it works!


About Andrew Henderson

I am a lecturer, lawyer and researcher in Canberra with an interest in the 'hidden' or informal curriculum of law school. I am passionate about developing engaging and authentic educational experiences for law students.

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One Comment on “Law students need to be ‘crap detectors’”

  1. You can certainly see your skills within the article you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

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