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Library Research Guides

Academic Research and Writing: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Most of the books and articles you find through the library undergo a lengthy review and publishing process. Contrast this to the open Web where anyone can publish anything and you see why evaluating your sources is an important part of research. Review the following information on methods of evaluating sources for academic research. 

More Resources:

CRAAP Test Plus

The CRAAP test is a list of questions that you should ask when evaluating information. Familiarize yourself with it before starting and review it as needed as you conduct your research. 

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

clock

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

puzzle piece

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

People

  • Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

target

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the author(s) present a biased perspective?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

Money

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

+Plus: How is the information impacted by the dominant culture? 

infinity

  • Who benefits from the story that is being told?
  • Whose voices, concerns, and experiences are included? Whose are excluded?
  • What assumptions are made? What unexamined beliefs does the author appear to have? What is the author unconscious/unaware of? 
  • What power dynamics are at work?

Original CRAAP Test created by Chico State Librarians. Plus questions inspired by the work of Angela Pashia.

Evaluating Academic Sources

This video from the University of Southern Australia summarizes how to use the CRAAP test to evaluate resources. 

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Your job as a researcher is to find out what experts (people with advanced training on a topic) have concluded about your topic and use that evidence to make an argument. The most credible resources are those written by experts and "peer" reviewed by other experts. 

For more on determining credibility, check out this video from North Carolina State Libraries. 

Going a Step Beyond CRAAP

The CRAAP Test is a great way to do some basic evaluation of a source. But often when you're evaluating a webpage, CRAAP is not enough because you can't find all the information you need on the page itself - you need to leave the page and do some additional research about the organization, the author, or the claims being made. 

Mike Caulfield's free ebook Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers suggest four ways to fact-check sources that go beyond the CRAAP test: 

  1. Check for previous work
    When researching a claim, see if a reputable fact-checking organization like Factcheck.org or Snopes has already de-bunked it.
  2. Go upstream to find the source
    Does the article you're reading refer to a study, a Pew research survey, an expert opinion, or some other outside source? Hop onto the library's OneSearch database or Google and see if you can find that original source!
  3. Read laterally
    See what others are writing and saying about the author, the organization, and/or the claim being made. 
  4. Circle back
    Stuck? Go back to the webpage you're trying to evaluate, take stock of what you know so far, and try a different approach. 

Library Research Tutorial

Prefer an interactive learning experience? The Library has created a self-paced tutorial in Canvas on evaluating and selecting sources. The module takes between 15–30 minutes to complete. After finishing the module and getting a score of 75% or higher on the quiz, the option to fill out a certification of completion will appear in the module screen.