Build in a quality control check to assess your research materials
You should always review your search results and assess them in terms of:
1. Relevance to your research topic. Refine your results to enhance relevance or try different search terms, search tips, databases
2. Academic quality. Not all information is equal!
Critical evaluation is especially important with non academic sources (e.g. news sources). For these types of sources, consideration of the currency, relevancy, accuracy, authority and purpose of the materials all need careful consideration.
A brief overview of relevance and academic quality issues is provided below.
A separate Evaluating Information Sources tutorial is also available and offers the opportunity to engage more deeply in academic quality issues.
Nearly all databases and search tools will give you a selection of filters on the search results page. Use these filters to help focus your results to the most relevant materials.
Typical database filters include:
Still not got the search results that you need? Try these three tips:
1) Be persistent - Keep trying different keywords and keyword combinations
2) Use advanced search techniques - try a range of search tips to tweak your search
3) Change databases - It is rare to find everything you need in one resource. If you are not finding the sources you need, try searching another resource.
The ability to evaluate the academic quality of the information you find is a core aspect of scholarly research.
This is particularly important when searching online and using tools like Google. While textbooks and academic journals will likely have gone through a rigorous review and editing process, there are no such guarantees for much of the information you can find online.
The CRAAP test provides simple criteria for judging the academic quality of information. By asking some questions of the sources you encounter, you can successfully boost the quality of information you use in your work.
The five main CRAAP test criteria are:
In an age of misinformation and fake-news, the ability to evaluate the quality of the information we find has never been more important.
Currency: the timeliness of the information
Relevancy: the importance of the information for your needs
Accuracy: the reliability and correctness of the content
Authority: the source of the information
Purpose: the reason the information exists