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A Guide to the Research Process

Evaluate Sources


Do you know the difference between popular and scholarly materials? What do you know about peer-review? How do you evaluate what you find when you're conducting research? Use this page to learn about different types of publications and the CRAP checklist.

Popular Articles:
Scholarly Articles:
  • Written by journalists, professional writers, or bloggers. The authors' credentials are not readily apparent.
  • Written for the average reader
  • Written to be easily understandable to a wide audience
  • Usually without citations
  • Colorful images and advertisements present
  • Websites, blogs, newspapers. These can also found in databases such as Lexis Nexis Academic, Newspaper Source, and MagPortal
  • Popular Journals do not use a peer-review process.
  • Written by academics, professors and experts. The author’s credentials are usually provided.
  • Written for professionals, professors, college and graduate students
  • More difficult language and jargon
  • Citations and a bibliography or works cited page will be provided
  • No advertisements,  no or few images
  • Databases such as Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, ERIC, and JSTOR
  • Scholarly Journals only publish articles after they have gone through a peer-review process where other experts in the field confirm the accuracy of research methodology and findings.
Examples of Popular Publications:
Examples of Scholarly Publications:
  • The New Yorker
  • Time Magazine
  • Huffington Post
  • Journal of Youth and Adolescence
  • Journal of School Nursing
  • Contemporary Justice Review
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Primary Sources:
Secondary Sources:

In scholarship, a document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic, used in preparing a derivative work. Primary sources include original manuscripts, periodical articles reporting original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, etc

Any published or unpublished work that is one step removed from the original source, usually describing, summarizing, analyzing, evaluating, derived from, or based on primary source materials, for example, a review, critical analysis, second-person account, or biographical or historical study. Also refers to material other than primary sources used in the preparation of a written work.
Examples of Primary Sources:
Examples of Secondary Sources:
  • An original painting
  • A research study and report on marine life
  • NASDAQ stock quote
  • A lesson plan for children with Autism
  • Moby Dick
  • Declaration of Independence  (1776)
  • A musical score for the Opera
  • A research study on a particular population
  • An exhibition catalogue
  • An overview that discusses the latest findings in marine life biology
  • Stock analysis news report
  • A book on the topic of teaching to kids with autism
  • A biography of Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick)
  • A Book on the Founding Fathers
  • A review of the opera
  • A magazine article on that analyzes the study

Definitions found in Reitz, Joan M. Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. (2013). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

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The CRAP Checklist is a tool that can help you determine if a resource is useful for college level writing.  Each letter in CRAP stands for a concept:

  • Currency
  • Reliability
  • Authority
  • Purpose

Asking these questions can help evaluate the information you are finding, each letter in CRAP has four yes or no question.  The more "yes" boxes you tic off, the higher the score, the better the resource.

Try It!

Use the CRAP Checklist below to evaluate what you find.