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Library Tutorials: Evaluating Sources

Teaching tools about library resources and services

What does it mean to evaluate your sources?

When you evaluate your sources, you are asking yourself many different questions. Is this source appropriate to my needs?  Is this source accurate? Does it have a particular bias? Do I need something current or historical? Do I need broad information or something very specific? Scholarly or popular sources? 

Both the library and the web contain many useful sources, and also many sources that are not appropriate to your research needs. 

Evaluating Information: CRAAP Test

CRAAP stands for 

  • Currency: The timeliness of the information.
  • Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
  • Authority: The source of the information and the author's credentials.
  • Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content.
  • Purpose: The reason the information exists.

More about the CRAAP Test

Source Types

What types of sources do you need? Books, articles, newspapers, websites? It depends on what type of research you're doing. 

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Scholarly Articles: Written by and for an expert audience. Also frequently called "peer-reviewed" publications. 

Popular Articles: Written by journalists for a general readership.

Both can be valuable, depending on your need.

More information about scholarly and popular sources

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources are first-hand accounts of events, topics, historical periods. Some examples include diaries, speeches, photographs, articles reporting original research, and most newspaper articles.

Secondary Sources interpret, critique, or analyze primary sources. Some examples include textbooks, essays or reviews, some newspaper articles, and encyclopedias. 

More about Primary Sources

Understanding Publication Bias

Many publications operate from a particular political stance or bias, though this can change over time due to editorial leadership.  This bias can impact how or if an event is reported.

Ad Fontes Media Bias Chart (as of August 2022)

Wikipedia CAN be Useful (but don't cite it directly)

(video link)

More about Wikipedia