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First-Year Writing Seminar

A collection of research resources for students enrolled in First Year Writing Seminar.

Use the CRAP Test

With resources like Google at our fingertips, information isn't hard to find. What is challenging is determining whether that information is credible and can be trusted. Is it factual? Biased? Relevant to your topic?

A Google search is often our first stop to gain a basic understanding of the main ideas about a topic, but since anyone with access to a computer can publish anything online, it is crucial that you evaluate the information you find, especially when completing a research paper, or looking for important information (like health or financial information).

Web sources can be particularly hard to evaluate, so here is a handy acronym to help you determine if a source may be CRAP.

Capital letters C. R. A. P. in white each in a dark blue square. Each letter has subtext to indicate what the later stands for. The full subtext is provided in the webpage text.

  • CURRENCY:  How recently was this information published/posted? Can you find a publication date?
  • RELIABILITY:  Is the information supported by evidence? Can it be confirmed by other sources?
  • AUTHORITY:  Who wrote the information - are they an expert or knowledgeable in their field? (i.e. For health information, did a doctor or nurse write it? For science information, did a scientist or researcher write it?)
  • PURPOSE / POINT OF VIEW:  Why was it written? To sell something? To sway opinion? Is it biased toward a particular point of view?

Reused with permission from Ann Grandmaison and Susan Leonardi, Reference Librarians at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill and Lawrence MA. http://necc.mass.libguides.com/fakenewsvsrealnews/tipsforevaluating

Is it Scholarly?

If you aren't sure if a work is scholarly, start by answering these questions.

 

1. Are the author's academic credentials included?

  • Yes
    • Credentials will often include where the author the author received her PhD, what government or research organization she works for, or what school or college she works for.
    • Be sure the credentials relate to the topic. Physics credentials do not make someone an expert of Chinese Art.)
  • No
    • Credentials will often include where the author the author received her PhD, what government or research organization she works for, or what school or college she works for.
    • Did you check the end of the work too?  In some disciplines, credentials appear there.
  • Not Sure
    • Credentials will often include where the author the author received her PhD, what government or research organization she works for, or what school or college she works for.
    • Maybe you found the author credentials, but you don’t trust they are academic or appropriate. Consider the credentials of the journal, organization, publisher or website itself.

 

2. Page through the work. Does it have a formal structure?

A formal structure in an article or book chapter often include headings such as "literature review," "results," "discussion," "conclusion." Full-length scholarly books (often called monographs) often contain similar sections.

  • Yes
    • Scholarly articles, book chapters and monographs have a formal structure and present new ideas or an original study. They will mention other works in the field.
  • No
    • Scholarly articles, book chapters and monographs have a formal structure and present new ideas or an original study. They will mention other works in the field.
    • While the headings “Literature Review, “ Methods,” and “Discussion.” are common in some disciplines, there are plenty of scholarly articles that don't use those exact headings. For articles in the humanities, for example, formal structure will include headings related to the subject of the article.
  • Not Sure
    • Check out the example articles and Evaluating Resources document above.

 

3. Does the author include a list of works cited, references, or a bibliography?

  • Yes
    • It is always important for scholars to build on the work of other scholars and to give credit where credit is due. The citations may include footnotes and/or endnotes.
  • No
    • This work is probably not scholarly
  • Not Sure
    • The bibliography or works cited is often found at the end of the article. It is possible that the article will have footnotes and endnotes.

 

(These questions adapted from the University of Michigan's "Is it Scholarly?" tool.)