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Library Research Basics: Evaluate

This guide will help you to use the library's resources for your research. Learn to find books and articles, evaluate resources, use specific databases, choose a topic, etc. Access documentation and video tutorials to help with the research process

The CRAAP Test

Before you choose to use a source for your research, put it through the CRAAP test.  Here are the important things to evaluate - currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose.  This is especially true for website evaluation.


When was this material published? Is the information outdated? This is more important in some disciplines than others. Generally, currency is more important in S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines than in the humanities and social sciences.


Does the information relate to your topic, answer your question, or contribute to your argument? If not, find material better suited to your research.


Does the author have the credentials and expertise to be writing on this topic?  You need to know the background of the author in order to answer this question.  If the article doesn't mention the authors credentials, it probably isn't a good source to use for your research.


Use information that is reliable, and supported by evidence.  Look for information that strives to be unbiased and neutral, and that has been peer-reviewed or refereed.


Look for material whose purpose it is to inform, educate, and share.  Information should be objective and impartial.  Avoid information from sources that want to sell or persuade, or that rely on opinion or propaganda for their argument.

(*CRAAP was created by Merriam Library, California State University, Chico.)

Other Resources

Cornell University Library website to help with Critically Analyzing Infomation Sources.

Evaluating Websites a video to help you evaluate websites

Evaluating Sources a video Created by the David L. Rice Library, Instructional Services. University of Southern Indiana, December, 2009.

What is a Scholarly Article a video from the University of Washington Libraries explaining scholarly journals

Scholarly vs. Popular, What's the Difference? Cook Library at Towson University explains the difference between scholarly and popular publications in this short video

Evaluate Your Sources

The most important aspect of evaluating your sources is to have a clear sense of the assignment and your professor's expectations.  What sort of sources are required or allow?  How many will you need?

If you are not sure, ask your professor.  A librarian can help you to locate the proper sources and/or help you review the sources you have found.


ULRICHSWEB Global Serials Directory is a database that will help you decide if your article is scholarly.  Type in the name of the journal that published your article.  Look at the Content Type and whether it is refereed (also known as peer-reviewed). 

Scholarly, Trade, and Popular Sources

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly sources are often required for college level research.  They have the highest level of authority, as they are written by experts in the discipline, generally PhDs.  Many but not all of them are peer-reviewed, also known as refereed, In the peer-review process, articles are scrutinized by a panel of experts to verify accuracy, validity, and value to the profession.

A Scholarly Source will ALWAYS be written by an expert – a PhD. affiliated with a college or university, for example.

A Scholarly Source will ALWAYS include a long list of citations/references at the end of the work.

Trade Sources

Trade journal articles are written by those practicing in the field.  The authors may be nurses, teachers, managers, engineers, etc.  The purpose for the journal is to share information and practical strategies  among people who are working in a profession.  They are less lengthy and may have a few or no references at the end.

Popular Sources

Popular sources are those written by journalists or freelance writers.  They are meant to appeal to the general public, often with sensationalized titles, glossy photos and illustrations, and many advertisements.  Their main purpose is to entertain and generate revenue.

Use the chart below to help compare scholarly, trade, and popular publications.

Scholarly vs. Trade vs. Popular Publications