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Research Tips: Evaluate and Analyze Sources

Worksheets for Evaluating Sources

CRAAP Test (Shorter) Downloadable

Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

-Diaries or journals
-Newsreel footage
-Art (Visual & Permorming)
-Government documents (treaties)
-Newspaper articles (written at the time of an event)

Secondary Sources

-Books about a topic
-Reference books (although might contain a reprinted portion of a primary source)
-Journal and magazine articles
-Newspaper articles (written about an event after it happened)

Find more information about primary and secondary sources.


Make Sure and Evaluate All Websites

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been updated or is it out-of date for your topic?

Relevance: how does the information meet your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • 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?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Explain how the author is an authority or an expert. Can you find their credentials, where they work, their education level?
  • Is there information on the organization or person publishing the website? Is there an About Us?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?.com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness

  • 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 biased and free of emotion?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • 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?

Courtesy of Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.


A note about Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a great tool for a summary of a topic. Wikipedia content is constantly revised, and entries vary in quality. Some of the content is excellent, some is questionable.

How can you use Wikipedia in a way that benefits your research process?

  • Scan the article to get general information and terms you can use as keywords for further searching.
  • Scan the article for references and view the External Links that can lead you to additional sources.
  • Wikipedia is not scholarly. Generall you don't cite Wikipedia articles in your paper unless the topic is extremely current (new technology), a definition cannot be found elsewhere, or other content can't be found elsewhere (ex. a list).
  • Quality contriol: Wikipedia offers notes and messages when articles are lacking evidence, citations, or are overly biased. Pay attention to what improvements are recommended before trusting the content.

Many educators frown on the use of Wikipedia. Why?

  • Wikipedia content is not necessarily written by subject experts. Portions of an entry may be emphasized or included that have not been verified by an authority on the topic.
  • Articles in Wikipedia may be changed or deleted between viewings.
  • For research papers, you need scholarly sources.

Adapted with permission from  "Web Resources: About Using Wikipedia." Art and Art History. Lane Community College Library LibGuide.


Lateral Reading

Lessons using Lateral Reading from Stanford History Education Group:

  • News sources
  • With Wikipedia
  • Lateral vs. vertical reading