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Evaluating Information

Use this guide to get some insights on how you should evaluate sources for your academic research

How can you be sure that you've found high-quality, authoritative, and accurate sources? Use this guide to help you evaluate everything from scholarly articles to websites.

How to Evaluate Sources

What kind of information do you need? If you are writing a paper for a college course, chances are that your professor or instructor will require you to use articles that have been peer-reviewed. In other words, you will need to evaluate and cite articles (and books, and journals, and more) that have been reviewed by experts in particular subject area. These experts check the articles for the quality of the research presented as well as adherence to the publishing journal's editorial standards.

Carl Sagan had his "Baloney Detection Kit." But we know what he really meant. As you try to weed out the "baloney," Skeen Library recommends that you ask yourself the following question: "Does this source pass the CRAAP test?" This method is a useful tool in determining if the source you found is reliable and valid:

Currency (timeliness of information)
  • When was the information published?
  • Is the information current and up-to-date?
  • Has it been revised or updated? When? Should it have been updated?
  • If the source is online: are the links functional?
Relevance (uniqueness or importance of information)
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (is it 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 (source of information)
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials? Does the author have any organizational affiliations?
  • Is this author qualified to write on this topic?
  • If the source is online: examine the domain (.gov, .edu, .org, or .com). Can you find the author's contact information?
Accuracy (reliability and correctness of information)
  • Is the information supported by evidence? Can you verify it from another source?
  • Has the information been peer-reviewed or refereed?
  • Does the language seem biased? Is the tone free of emotion?
  • Are there any typos, spelling, or grammatical errors?
Purpose (presence of bias, reason the information exists)
  • What is the purpose of the information: to teach, sell, entertain, etc.?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the point-of-view objective and impartial?
  • Do the authors make their intentions or purpose clear?

 

Modified from CRAAP Test created by Meriam Library at California State University, Chico

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