Critically evaluate sources to decide whether to use them for a research assignment! While you are deciding on a topic and narrowing its focus, you may collect resources that you don't use in the end.
Apply the CRAAP test below to evaluate potential sources. Some of these criteria apply only to web sites, but others can be applied to any resource. When evaluating websites, methods linked from Evaluating Internet Resources may provide additional guidance in determining the authority, scope, currency, accuracy and bias of a website. Do not rely solely on information provided within the sources themselves! Use "lateral reading" by consulting other sources to verify information and see what the other sources say about the ones you are considering using. For example, trace citations to their source; search for information about authors, publishers or organizations responsible for your source; and seek out what other sites say about your source.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
Authority: The source of the information.
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
Print copies of this checklist may be made and distributed provided that 1) They are used for educational purposes only and 2) The content of the page is reproduced here almost in its entirety. For any other use or for permission to make electronic copies, please contact the authoring library. This CRAAP test has borrowed (for educational purposes only) from Meriam Library @ California State University, Chico.
Identifying scholarly articles involves analysis of the article's content. The chart below is meant to help you in this process; however, any one criteria by itself may not indicate that an article is scholarly. For example, a 30 page photo spread in People about stars at the Academy Awards is not scholarly, even though it is long.
Trade or Professional Magazines
|Length||Longer articles (often 10+ pages), providing in-depth analysis||Mid-length articles (often 2-8 pages), providing practical guidance||Shorter articles (often <1-5 pages), providing broader overviews|
|Author||An expert or specialist in the field (often a professor), name and credentials always provided||Usually someone working in the field, with hands-on experience; some staff writers||Usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials often not provided|
|Language||Professional language, jargon, theoretical terms||Some jargon and technical terms||Non-technical language|
|Likely Audience||Scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students)||Other people working in the industry||Anyone|
|Advertisements||Few or none||Some -- products to sell to practitioners in that industry||Many -- products for the general public|
|Format/Structure||Usually structured, with likely sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography||Sometimes has sub-sections for organization||No specific format or structure|
|Special Features||Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs||Some illustrations; practical guidelines, best practices, lesson plans, how-to, or other hands-on direction||Glossy/color illustrations or graphics, usually for advertising purposes|
|Editors||Reviewed and critically evaluated by several editors. Often refereed or peer-reviewed by experts in the field.||Editorial board of other practitioners or professionals in the field, but no external peer review||Not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors or other journalists on staff|
|Credits||Bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always present to document research||Usually no formal bibliography, although references to other research are often mentioned in-text||No bibliography, although references to other research are sometimes mentioned in-text|
Still can't tell the difference? These resources can help:
Ulrichsweb (periodicals directory) -- look up a journal's name, and look for the row called "Content type" -- it should say Academic/Scholarly, Trade, or Consumer (popular).
You've all searched for web sites with search engines like Google before, but don't just take the first few results! Take the time to evaluate each site.
Some web sites are more authoritative than others, such as government sites (.gov). Others, such as those ending with .org, .com, or .net need to be used with care.
Limit Google results to specific domains such as government sites by adding site:.gov to a search.
There are also some ways of adding precision to a web search, e.g., put phrases in quotes (""). For more help with Google, see the Google Search Tips guide.