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A Guide to the Research Process

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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 CRAAP checklist.

Evaluate Your Source with the CRAAP Test

The CRAAP test guides us through some questions to ask about a source to determine its quality.


- When was this published? Has it been updated?
- Is the information still accurate now or is it out-of-date or incomplete?


- Will this source help you understand your topic or complete your assignment?
- Does this source meet your assignment's criteria? 


- Who published this? Is this a source others trust? ​
- Who wrote this? What are their credentials?


Is there evidence for claims made–maybe citations?
- Can you verify the information in other places?
- Do we know or believe this information was reviewed before publication--whether by fact-checkers or through a peer-review process?


- Is this source trying to sell something? Is it intended to entertain?
- Are these opinions, based on one perspective, or facts?
- Does this source seem biased?

Tip: You can answer these questions using information from the source and the rest of the web. Don't recognize a publication or website? Google it to see what others are saying!

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 formal 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. Trusted sources will edit and fact-check material before publishing it.
  • Written by academics, professors and experts. The author’s credentials are usually provided.
  • Written for professionals, professors, college and graduate students
  • More advanced language and jargon
  • Citations and a bibliography or works cited page will be provided
  • No advertisements,  no or few images
  • Often found in library databases such as Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, ERIC, and JSTOR
  • Articles are peer reviewed. 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
Did You Know?

You can limit your search to scholarly articles by checking the "peer-reviewed articles" filter before or after you search in a library database.

What is Peer Review?

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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