! END: CSS -->Skip to Main Content
Not all sources will be appropriate for your project. Even if they contain information you find interesting or exciting, if they are not suited for the kind of research you are doing, they will undermine the integrity and authority of your project.
With books and articles especially, it is important you know the difference between scholarly and popular articles. Since you are in a university library, most of the materials you examine will be scholarly, but you should still be able to tell the difference.
Generally, you want to make sure your sources are scholarly, not popular. One exception is if your project is about popular sources in some way (e.g. popular portrayals of African-American men in U.S. magazines during the 1960s).
How do you know if a source that you find is research paper quality?
Try putting it through The CRAAP Method of Evaluating Information, a series of questions developed by librarians at California State University, Chico.
This test is designed to work for all information sources, including websites.
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? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net
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?