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Research help

This guide will help you at all stages of the research process, from choosing a topic to citing your sources.

Evaluate information using the CRAP Test

Abe Lincoln, president and CCC alumEvaluating information is especially important when completing academic research assignments in college because you will be evaluated on the quality of sources you use. The CRAP Test is a helpful tool to use when deciding if a source is high-quality and credible. CRAP stands for currency, reliability, authority and purpose. These are the four areas you'll consider when evaluating a source.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you go through the evaluation process.

Currency

  • When was the item written or created?
  • How recently has the item been updated?
  • Is the information current enough for your topic?

Reliability

  • Is there a works cited or references list? Or links to outside sources?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources data, quotations, or images?
  • Is the information accurate and well-edited?
  • Was the item reviewed by experts?
  • What kind of information is included in the resource?

Authority

  • Who is the creator or author?
  • What are their credentials? Can you find any information about the author's background, education, and/or experience?
  • Who is the publisher, sponsor, or hosting website? Are they reputable? What is the publisher's interest (if any) in sharing this information? What is on their "About Us" page?

Purpose/Point of View

  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Is the information biased? Do the author or publisher seem to be pushing an agenda or particular side?
  • Is the author/publisher trying to sell you something? Are there advertisements? If so, are they clearly stated?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is the author trying to reach experts, the general public, children, retirees, veterans, etc.?
  • Does this resource require in-depth knowledge for you to understand? Does it use words or phrases that you might have to look up? Would it be confusing if you didn't know anything about the topic?
     
CRAP Test adapted from Beestrum, M., & Orenic, K. (2008). The CRAP test. Available from http://commons.emich.edu
Abe adapted from public domain photo Abraham Lincoln [image]. (1863). Available from https://upload.wikimedia.org/

Handouts and worksheets

More help

There are many ways to evaluate information sources. Some of our other favorites are listed below.

What are good sources?

Great question! A good source is credible and relevant to your topic.

  • Credibility can be tricky to determine: is this information biased? Who wrote it? Are they an expert? When was it published? What is the publication, and does that publication have a good reputation? Why was it published: to inform, persuade, entertain, etc.? Does it cite its sources? Ultimately it is up to you to determine using research and your own critical judgement whether a source is good or not.
  • Relevancy can be determined if the resource helps you learn more about your topic. The resource should be understandable to you; not so hard to read that it is hard to understand. The resource should help you answer some aspect of your research question.

CCC Library provides many resources to help with finding "good" sources. Resources available through our library catalog & databases are generally "safer" than random internet searching. Starting your research in the catalog will help you find books, eBooks, and articles from newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. If you’re just getting started, try Gale Virtual Reference Library / Gale eBooks – the academic version of Wikipedia! Once you find an article you like, check its references for more, then use the CCC Library Catalog to search for the citation.

CCC Librarians are here to help you with this exact question, too. Stop by, call us, email us, or chat with us online. We're happy to help!

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