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A How-To Guide for Research: Select

Evaluation of Information

Evaluation isn't just a step before you begin writing your paper. You should be constantly evaluating the information you have found as you go. Here are several steps in the process.

1. Examine your searches as you go. Refine them to get the best possible results. If a search isn't working, try different words before switching to another database.

2. Think about what the sources you have say - do you need an opposite viewpoint? Or a real life example? Every resource should have a purpose in your paper. Make sure the resources you pick don't all repeat the exact same information.

3. Does the source provide enough information for you to use? Articles less than 300 words might not say enough to be helpful.

4. Think about the motivations of the author in publishing the information. Do they want money, or to convince you to buy a product? 

5. Be critical in your use of web material, particularly Wikipedia. Make sure your webpages are suitable for scholarly purposes.

6. Always think about the evaluation criteria - is the information you are using relevant, current, authoritative and accurate?

Source: University of Melbourne

You should really evaluate every source you plan to use in your paper or project to make sure it is appropriate. One method mentioned in the FYE class here at Sullivan is the CRAAP test developed by the librarians at CSU - Chico. The criteria in the CRAAP test are:

Currency - When was the information created or posted? Does this matter to the research you are performing?

Relevance -  Does the information relate to your topic or help answer your question(s)?

Authority - Who wrote the information and why should you trust them?

Accuracy -  Can you verify the information from other sources or your personal knowledge?

Purpose - Why was the information piece created? To inform, sell, persuade, or entertain? 

If you need more questions to ask yourself try the CSU Chico sheet explaining the CRAAP test below. Still aren't sure a source is reliable? Ask a librarian. We can help you evaluate a resource or point you toward another credible source if necessary.

This video from the librarians at NCSU does a good job explaining credibility and some tips for evaluating a source for its credibility.

Refine your search

If you are having trouble finding good sources despite trying a lot of different searches, consider these troubleshooting tips.

If you are getting too many results:

  • Try narrowing your search by adding more search terms
  • Use quotation marks to specify that words should be kept together as a phrase eg "global warming"
  • If you are searching for journal articles, try limiting your search to keywords in the title or abstract
  • Check that you have constructed your search statement correctly and used parentheses if you have included OR
  • Consider if your topic is too broad


If you are getting too few results:

  • Use truncation to broaden the search
  • Consider add some synonyms and alternative search terms to expand the results
  • You may need to repeat your search in multiple databases
  • Check for spelling mistakes
  • Reconsider the emphasis of your topic

Ask your campus librarian for assistance.

Source: University of Melbourne