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Introduction to Doing Research: Evaluating Information

For those new or returning to research, this guide will help you to plan your research projects and use the library more effectively.

How to Read an Academic Journal

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Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

For the most part, professors will require you to use scholarly articles for college-level research. These are quite different from the articles you might read in newspapers, magazines, and online.

Scholarly Articles:

  • Fairly long, usually up to 15-30 pages
  • Contain references or footnotes
  • May have data tables and graphs
  • Demonstrate original research
  • Written by experts, sometimes more than one author
  • Peer-reviewed. In other words, articles have been checked for accuracy by other experts before publication.

Popular Articles:

  • Typically short, about 3-5 pages
  • Do not contain footnotes or references
  • May have photos or graphics
  • Report on events and findings
  • Written by journalists, not researchers
  • Not peer-reviewed: intended for a general audience

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources... are they CRAAP?

How can you tell if information you find is trustworthy? Sometimes information can be unreliable, especially when dealing with onlline sources. If you're not sure about a source, just ask yourself, is it CRAAP?

The CRAAP Test is a list of questions that can help you more effectively evaluate information:

Currency - the timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information first published?
  • For websites, when was the page last updated?
  • Does this topic require up-to-date information (like medicine and science)?

Relevance - the usefulness of the information to your needs.

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Is the information the right level (not too basic or too advanced)? 
  • Have you considered other possible sources before selecting this one?

Authority - the source of the information.

  • What are the author's credentials/qualifications?
  • Is there an organization sponsoring the research?
  • Does the author provide any contact information?

Accuracy - the reliability and truthfulness of the information.

  • Does the author provide evidence to support his or her claims?
  • Has the information been reviewed by an editor?
  • Is the language and tone neutral and unbiased?

Purpose - the reason the information exists in this format.

  • Is the information meant to inform, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their purpose/intention clear?
  • Are there political, cultural, religious, or personal biases?

The CRAAP test was developed by staff at Meriam Library, California State University, Chico