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The Writing Guide

Planning, researching, writing, referencing and drafting your assignments

Evaluating sources

Go to the InfoSkills Toolkit by clicking hereYour assignment is only as good as the sources you have used.

Not all sources are suitable for a university level assignment. Some may not be scholarly enough, others may be downright dodgy.

You need to evaluate your sources to make sure they aren't crappy.

Go to the InfoSkills Toolkit module on Evaluating Resources to learn how to recognise credible sources and week out the sources you really shouldn't be using in your assignment.

Check out the InfoSkills Toolkit for more information

The CRAAP test

The CRAAP test is a quick mnemonic to remind you what you should look for when evaluating sources:

C: Currency

How old is it? Is there a chance it is no longer up to date? Could you find something newer?

R: Relevance

Is it actually on-topic? It may mention the thing you are researching, but is it actually about that topic? Could you find something more relevant?

A: Authority

Who wrote it? Why should you trust them to know what they are talking about? Are they respected experts in their field? Does it make sense for them to write about this?

A: Accuracy

Does everything they say add up (e.g. does their discussion make sense given what they said in their results)? Can you see where they got their information from (do they have good references)? Have they made any obvious mistakes (e.g., if it's a web page, is if full of broken links)? From the other things you've read on this topic, does it sound like they may have missed something important? Can you detect evidence of bias?

P: Purpose

What *is* the source you are looking at? Is it the kind of source you should be using? For example, if you were asked to use peer reviewed journal articles, a news report would not be fit for purpose.

How to identify a scholarly article

                            It's important to note that academic journals, in addition to articles, also publish editorials, book reviews, film reviews, letters, columns, and other marginalia that are not considered scholarly articles. Make sure you look for some other clues before deciding that you're looking at a scholarly article.

An academic article, also called a scholarly article, is an article written by an expert in an academic or professional field. These articles are intended for other experts and scholars, rather than the general public. There are several ways to determine whether an article is scholarly. While none of these are hard-and-fast rules, they can be useful clues:

  • The article is written by researcher(s), professional(s) or other expert(s).
  • The article commonly has more than one author (this isn't always true).
  • The article appears in an academic journal rather than a magazine or newspaper (but, keep in mind that not everything in an academic journal is a peer reviewed article).
  • The article is of significant length (usually over five pages).
  • The article includes a substantial bibliography or reference list.
  • The article is peer reviewed.
  • The article presents original research or analysis of a topic.
  • The article uses technical or expert-level language.



Re-used with permission thanks to Brooke Williams, Research & Instruction Services Librarian, Communication Studies & School of Journalism, Snell Library, Northeastern University.

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