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Research Process: Step 6: Evaluating & Integrating Sources

How to write a paper at the Davis Library and University of Rio Grande & Rio Grande Community College

Evaluate Your Sources: The CRAAP Method

Knowing where information is coming from, who wrote it, and why they wrote it, is an important step in doing research. When you find a new source of information, especially on the Internet, ask yourself the following questions.

Currency

  • When was this material published or put on the Internet?
  • Are there links within the website that are dead?
  • Is the site maintained and updated?
  • If information is dated, does that make it less valuable? If you are researching current events, information from ten years ago won't work.

Relevance or Coverage

  • Is the information presented in a manner that makes it easy to use?
  • Is the article focused on one topic or does it discuss many topics?
  • Is the text edited, abridged, or added to in any way?
  • Can you see the whole article? Or is it just an abstract?

Authority

  • Who published this material?
  • What are the author's qualifications?
    • Is this someone in your field of study with a Ph.D.?
    • What other research has this person done?
    • What is this person's reputation?
  • Can the author be contacted if you have questions?
  • What organization is sponsoring the website?

Accuracy

  • Can you verify the accuracy of the information?
  • Is there a bibliography or links to other sources used by the author?
  • Is information cited properly?
  • Has the article been peer-reviewed?
  • Is the information written well?  i.e., spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.

Purpose

  • What is the purpose of this page?
    • Is it to inform, explain, persuade, or sell a product?
  • Is the information intended for a specific audience (high school students, scholars, etc.)?
    • Is the intended audience useful/appropriate for your research?
  • Is information presented objectively or does it have a bias?
    • If it has a bias (e.g., a specific political or philosophical point of view) does that detract from the usefulness to you?
  • Does the author belong to or the website for a non-profit organization, a political party, or in support of a cause?
    • For websites, look at the end of the web address (URL) for the domain name, .com is for companies who might be trying to sell something, .gov is for government websites, and .org is usually for non-profit groups who often have a very specific point of view.

Although this list of questions is not exhaustive, do you feel confident that the information presented on the website you are evaluating is of use for you and your research?

Integrate Your Sources: The BEAM Method - University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

You have found sources you want to use in a paper or project, but how do you use them well? How does the source fit into the structure of your paper? Think about how each of your sources could add to your project with the following elements.


What could a writer do with this source? (BEAM Method(

What could a writer do with this source? by (Kristin M. Woodward/Kate L. Ganski) / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Types of Resources

Below is a list of the most commonly cited resources used for research.


Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Journals
 Articles are reviewed and approved for publication by scholars/experts in the field.
Examples: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Journal of Accountancy

 

  •     Uses jargon of the discipline
  •     Extensive footnotes/references at the end of the article
  •     Purpose of the article is to publish the results of research
  •     Audience: scholars, researchers, professionals, students
  •     Graphics are usually statistical illustrations, in black-and-white

Trade Journals
 Articles are written and read by professionals in a specific industry.
Examples: Harvard Business Review, Chronicle of Higher Education

 

  •     Uses jargon of the industry
  •     Occasionally cite sources
  •     Purpose of the article is to report industry trends, practical advice, and industry news

Popular Magazines
 Articles are intended to casually inform, entertain, or present an opinion.
Examples: Time, Fortune, Vanity Fair

 

  •     General reading level
  •     Rarely cites sources
  •     Audience: non-professionals
  •     Due to frequency of publication, usually the first to report about a trend or news story

Newspapers
 Published daily, newspapers are often the first to report a newsworthy story.
Examples: New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today

 

  •     Written for a general audience
  •     Sources are informally cited as witnesses, officials, and people involved with the news story
  •     Articles provide enough information to report the news story with the information they have at the time, but often do not go in to great detail

Books and Ebooks
 Books provide broad and foundational coverage of a topic.
Examples: How to Win Friends and Influence People, Freakonomics    Ebooks are just digitized print books

  •     Books have a longer publishing cycle, so they aren’t a source to consult for trends
  •     Books are not peer reviewed, but are reviewed by the publisher's editor(s) prior to publication.

Encyclopedias & Handbooks
 Encyclopedias & handbooks feature introductory overviews of topics.
Examples: Encyclopedia of Social Theory, The Persuasion Handbook

 

  •     Professors most often will not allow you to cite encyclopedias in your papers
  •     Useful to consult when you've been tasked with researching a topic you know little about.
  •     Often cites sources or suggests further readings on the topic

 Government Websites
 Government websites have .gov as their designated domain. They are often a great place to search for statistical information.
Examples: http://www.usa.gov/ and http://nces.ed.gov/

    Can be challenging to search and navigate to the information you need

  •      .gov websites also provide Laws/Statutes, regulations, and codes
  •     Find government information using the following:

                http://www.google.com/unclesam
                http://www.usa.gov/