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College Level Research: Selection Criteria for Sources

Build on your high school research experiences and adjust to the higher standards recommended for college research projects with these tips and guidelines.

SCORE: Evaluate Your Sources

SCORE Rating System

  • Scope

Who is the intended audience?  Is this a scholarly professional publication?   Or popular literature, intended for the general public? Or a source that was never published, and is just "out there"

  • Currency

Is the information still considered valid? Or is it dated?

  • Originality

Is this a primary source, such as a report from a research study by the authors? Is it a secondary source which interprets, analyzes or evaluates a primary source?  Is it a tertiary source,  in which the source summarizes or provides commentary on another source?  Is it simply opinion?

  • Reason

What is the author's goal of the article / book / website?

  • Expertise

What qualifications does the author have? Why does this author have credibility? Is the author trustworthy?

Evaluating Information: Using the 5 W's

The 5 W's
WHAT What is the document? Is it fact or opinion? What type of source is it from (book, magazine, journal, website,etc.)

Who wrote the document? What do you know about the author?

WHY Why did the author write this? What was the author's goal?
WHEN When was the document published? What was happening in the world?
WHERE Where was the document published? What do you know about the quality of the publisher?

How did the author gather data? How did the author present information?


Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test

Currency: The timeliness of the 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Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?
Are the links functional? *

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 (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining that this is the one you will use?
Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: The source of the information

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 e-mail address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
          Examples: .com, .edu, .gov, .org, .net*

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational 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 or from your own personal knowledge?
Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free from emotion?
Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists

What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
* Indicates criteria for Web only

Prepared by Kristin Johnson, CalState University, Chico 02/02--Used by Eli M. Oboler Library with permission 

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