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Reading Critically and Evaluating Sources

Learn how to critically read and evaluate the sources you would like to use in your research.

Online Sources 

You can find a lot of different information on the internet. If you are planning to use an online source in your everyday life or for your research, you need to be sure it is valid before you use it. One thing to keep in mind when looking at information online is that anyone can make a website, publish a blog, or contribute to a message board. This means that much of the information that you find online is NOT edited or checked for accuracy. You will have to read the source carefully and critically to decide whether or not what you are reading is true.

You can use methods like the CRAAP test to determine a source's validity. 

The CRAAP Test 

You can use the CRAAP test to evaluate any kind of source. Try it out on the news sources, social media posts, or online articles that you see every day. 

Currency

  • When was the information published, updated and/or revised?
  • What is considered "current" for your field of study?

Relevance 

  • Is the information appropriate for your needs? 
  • Does it offer an in-depth analysis or a superficial overview? 

Authority 

  • Who wrote, edited, and/or published the information? 

  • What are their qualifications? Do they hold advanced degrees? Do they work for an academic institution? Have they written about the subject before?

Accuracy 

  • Is the information verifiable? Can you find the same (or similar) information in other sources?

  • Check the reference list! What sources are used to support the author's claims?

Purpose 

  • Why was the source created? Is it objective? 
  • What alternative points of view are considered? 

 

Check out this video by Western University Libraries for more information! 

Can I use Wikipedia in my research paper? 

Wikipedia is usually the first result we get when we are searching for a topic. Wikipedia is not a scholarly or peer-reviewed source, so you should not use it in your research papers. However, Wikipedia can be good place to start; each page provides a general overview of a topic along with a list of references at the bottom. You can follow/access the sources used in the Wikipedia page by downloading the LibKey Nomad Extension, which tells you what we have available at GPRC.  


Screenshot of the "Cubism" page on Wikipedia, n.d. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubism


Are there other online encyclopedias? 

The GPRC Learning Commons subscribes to an online encyclopedia that you can access through a OneSearch keyword search. If you search for a singular or general topic, you will usually see a yellow lightbulb come up as your first result. These results come from Salem Press Encyclopedias and can provide a good overview of a topic. These encyclopedias do not count as scholarly sources (unless otherwise stated by your instructor), but are a great place to start your research. 

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