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FYS: Library Research

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Reliable Results?

Evaluate Your Sources 

Evaluating your sources is an important part of the research process. Whether you are looking at information from a book, an article, a website, or a different form of media you need to critically appraise its reliability, authority, and relevance. Using questions from the CRAAP Test can help you with the evaluation process. 

Most professors will require you to use scholarly sources for your assignments. How do you know if a resource is scholarly? Read the section on peer-reviewed, scholarly sources to learn more. 

Want to dig deeper? The research guide Fake or True? Evaluating Sources can help you discern "fake" information from reliable information. 

Need help evaluating a source? Ask a librarian for help. 


The CRAAP Test: Questions to Help you Evaluate Information

Librarians from the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, developed the CRAPP Test to help students evaluate information sources. As you conduct your research, consider these questions. If you determine that an information source is highly biased, inaccurate, unreliable, or simply irrelevant to your needs do not use it. 

Evaluation Criteria 

Key: * indicates criteria is for Web

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • 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.

  • 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 one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • 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?

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

  • 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 language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • 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?

Peer-Review and Scholarly Sources

What are scholarly and peer-reviewed publications?  

Remember, a peer-reviewed article goes through a robust review process before publication to ensure that it is accurate, significant and methodologically sound. This process is designed to maintain high levels of scholarship in a field and to prevent the publication of inaccurate and false information. Examples of peer-reviewed journals include JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, Comparative Studies in Society and History, and Advances in Oceanography.

The peer-review process takes a long time. Unlike news articles, which are often published shortly after being written, peer-reviewed articles go through several months of review and revision before they can be published. First, an author submits their work to a journal, at which point it will be accepted for further consideration or rejected. Next, the work is reviewed by several experts in the discipline. This is where the word “peer” originates, since these experts are considered the submitting author’s peers. During this stage the submitted work may be rejected or sent back to the author for revision. After revision the work will be reviewed again. If deemed to be of excellent quality and sound scholarship, it will be sent to the journal’s editorial board for final approval before publication. 

All peer-reviewed journals are scholarly; however, not all scholarly publications are peer reviewed. Scholarly publications are written by and addressed to experts in a particular academic discipline. They will always be heavily cited, with either footnotes or bibliographies. Some scholarly publications, however, do not require a peer-review process and only require approval by an editorial board. This distinction should be made clear by a journal. If you need help determining whether or not a publication is peer-reviewed, please ask a librarian for help

What does a scholarly article look like? Check out the Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from NCSU Libraries. Last updated: 7/13/2009. Contact the author. Shared under the Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


What are popular periodicals? 

Popular periodicals are designed to entertain the reader or to promote a particular viewpoint. They are usually written in simple, easy-to-understand language. Popular periodicals usually do not cite sources, and they are often colorful and attractive in appearance. Examples of popular periodicals include magazines such as Reader's Digest, Sports Illustrated, or Rolling Stone

How to tell the Difference between Popular and Scholarly Sources*

*Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Recommended Citation

Barbera, Jessica; Huff, Jim; Iannicelli, Christine; Sade, Marianne; and Martin, Samantha, "IMLS Sparks Ignite IL Framework Cooperative Project Teaching Materials: Scholarly vs. Popular" (2018). IMLS SPARKS Ignite IL Framework Cooperative Project for At-Risk Student Success in Smaller Colleges. 1.