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Sociology Research Guide: Evaluating Your Sources

Subject guide for Sociology

Evaluating different types of sources

For academic papers you are often required to gather information and evidence from a variety of sources, including scholarly journal articles, books and book chapters, and high-quality websites. Not everything you read, however, is a reliable source of information or appropriate for an academic paper!

You should always check with your instructors to see what expectations they have for sources on their assignments. Then use the CRAAP test to critically evaluate whether a source is appropriate for your academic paper.

CRAAP Criteria

The CRAAP Criteria:

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose

Evaluating Sources

 

CRAAP Test

balanced scale

Currency - Timeliness of information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?

Relevance - The importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before choosing this one?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority - The source of the information for your needs

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

 Accuracy - The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • 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?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose - Reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?