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Search Tips & Tutorials: Evaluating Sources

See Also - for Critical Appraisal

If you want to go even deeper, there many evidence-based practice checklists out there to help evaluate the clinical literature.

Helpful Books

Evaluate Your Sources with the CRAAP Test

Is your information reliable and accurate?  Apply the C.R.A.A.P. test!

Currency - The timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • If the source is a webpage are the links functional?

Relevance - The usefulness 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?
  • Can it help you find other information related to your topic?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority - The source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • If the source is a webpage does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy - The correctness and reliability of the information

  • 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 other typographical errors?

Purpose - The reason for the information

  • Is the author free from a conflict of interest that would bias what she or he has to say? (i.e. they work for the company on which they are reporting; they have stock in the product they are testing, etc.)
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

*Modified version of CRAAP Test created by Meriam Library at California State University, Chico.

Contact Your Librarian

Need Assistance? We are happy to help! Please contact Your Librarian :

 

Michele Matucheski
Library & Information Consultant
(920) 223-0340
Email

Evaluating Information from a Citation

First, make sure you are looking at the most detailed version of the citation/ abstract that is available to you.

Then mine for specifics:

  • Author. Can you determine the author’s affiliation or credentials? Is the author from a university or research organization?

  • Publication date.  When was this published?  Is currency important for your topic?

  • Length.  How long is the article?  2-3 pages does not provide in-depth coverage and is not likely to be a peer-reviewed, research article.

  • Abstract.  Is there an abstract?  Reading an abstract takes much less time than skimming the whole article – use it to help decide if this article will be useful!

  • Peer-review.  Is the article from a peer-reviewed (sometimes called “refereed”) journal?

Sample article record from one of the library databases:

In this case, the authors are listed, but this citation does not include author affiliations (other databases would include this).

The article was published in June 2007; and the article is 6 pages long.   Since this article is about the History of Headaches, currency may not be as important as if you were looking for current treatments of headaches.  

This particular database lists this journal as being peer-reviewedTo ensure that the journal is peer-reviewed, you can read more about it on the journal publisher’s website.     

This citation includes MEDLINE info such as a PMID and NLM UID.  The National Library of Medicine has a stringent inclusion/exclusion policy for which journals get indexed in Medline, and which ones don't make the cut in the field of Medicine.  It's a sign of quality to see a PMID, but it doesn't mean it's peer-reviewed.

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