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Medical Sciences: Finding literature for assignments: 5. Evaluating your search results

Online tutorial introducing you to the skills and techniques needed for effective library research

It is crucial that you take steps to ensure the information that you rely on and include in your work is of a good academic quality. Inaccurate, false or misleading information can undermine the points that you want to make and weaken your arguments. 

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.

Evaluating sources: academic quality

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:

  • Currency
  • Relevancy
  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Purpose

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

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the web links functional?

Relevancy: 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 academic level?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Accuracy: the reliability and correctness of the content

  • Is the information supported by evidence (e.g. references, research data)?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Authority: the source of the information 

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organisational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Purpose: the reason the information exists

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

Want to learn more? Click to try our online tutorial on Evaluating Information Sources.

 

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