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SEFS Graduate Research Skills

A module for all SEFS graduate students to support and develop their research skills and self-test

Evaluating Resources

On completion of this module, you will be able to evaluate the resources you find, such as books, journal articles and websites using the following criteria:

  • relevance
  • quality
  • accuracy
  • bias
  • currency
  • authority
  • purpose

When searching for information about your topic it is important to critically evaluate the resources that you find.

You need to be able to distinguish between quality, authoritative resources, and those written or produced by amateurs or those with a particular bias.

In essence, it needs to pass the CRAAP test: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.

Watch this CRAAP video from the University of Wollongong. 

(Resources can be books, articles, websites, reviews, blogs, personal commmunications etc.. anything you use in your essays and assignments.)

Evaluating sources, UOW Library, added February 28 2017

When was it published?

Look for a publication or copyright date on the

  • Title page (books, journals)
  • Reverse of the title page (books)
  • Cover (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • Table of contents (journals, magazines)
  • Bottom of the page (web sites)

Has the source been updated in another edition?

Dates on web pages may indicate:

  • When the page was created.
  • When the page was published on the web.
  • When the page was last revised.

Broken Links can also indicate a webpage is not being regularly updated.

Is the content appropriate for your research topic or assignment?

  • Is the source scholarly, or is it more popular source? ie from an academic journal or a trade/general interest magazine?
  • Can you identify the format, eg article, government report, website, conference proceedings?
  • Is it a primary or secondary source?
  • Does it re-inforce the arguments you are making?
  • Does the author provide a balanced point of view, with references clearly acknowleldged for transparancy?
  • Is the resource discussing both sides of the argument?

The Oxford English Dictionary Online defines peer review as:

"The process by which an academic journal passes a paper submitted for publication to independent experts for comments on its suitability and worth."

What are the author's credentials?

  • Relevant university degree?
  • Institutional affiliation (where does he or she work?)
  • Relevant field or employment experience?
  • Past writings?
  • What is the author's reputation among his/her peers?
  • Have they been cited in articles, books or bibliographies.
  • How objective are they?       

Who is the publisher?

  • Commercial, trade, institutional, other?
  • Known for quality and/or scholarly publications?
  • Basic values or goals?
  • Specialisation?

Is the author associated with a reputable, unbiased institution or organization?

  • What is the organizational mission?
  • What are its basic values or goals?
  • Is it national or international?
  • Who makes up its membership?

Personalization of Search Results

You may be aware of that online search engines and social networking sites may filter what you see based on your past browsing behaviour, amongst other things (Pariser 2011). It is important to think through the implications of this for your academic work. Whilst we in the library strongly encourage you to use library databases and the catalogue to find resources, we recognise the ubiquity and user-friendliness of google. With this in mind, here are some issues for you to consider:

  • The “filter bubble”. Your search results may be based upon assumptions about what the search engine thinks that you want
  • You are more likely to be presented with information that confirms what you already know or believe (feeding the confirmation bias)
  • Search results that are filtered based on past behaviour may not reveal information that challenges your assumptions

(Pariser 2011).

Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles" Duration: (9:05) User: tedtalksdirector - Added: 3/05/11