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Research Guides

Getting Started on Research in the UI Library : Evaluation

A general introduction to using the library's resources.

Evaluating Sources

Scholarly vs. Popular Resources

Scholarly Popular
Format Journals Magazines, newspapers
Content Original research and inquiry General interest stories and opinion pieces; may discuss research studies, but do not contain original research
Purpose Share research to expand knowledge base in a discipline

Share news, general information, and entertainment; for profit

Audience Professors, researchers, professionals, experts, students General public
Author Experts in the field.  Name, credentials, and affiliations are provided.  Journalist or professional writer, who are not experts or specialists in a field.  Sometimes no author name or credentials are given.
Article Structure Includes clearly labeled parts such as abstract (article summary), and references (bibliography, works cited).  May also include and introduction, background, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, conclusion, notes, appendices and more. Structure varies.  May have titled subsections, but they will rarely be the same labels as a scholarly work.  Do not have abstracts or reference lists. 
Language Scholarly or technical language; may require prior knowledge of field, issues, and jargon Easily understood language; does not require special knowledge
Peer review Usually.  Articles are verified by experts in the field; emphasize accuracy, trustworthiness, and validity. No
Citations Yes.  Other sources will be cited in text and will have full citations/references in footnotes or reference/works cited list at the end of the paper. Rarely. Sources will often be referred to, but rarely have full citations.  No reference/works cited list.
Appearance Serious and simple; often black and white Glossy, colorful; attractive images and design; full page ads
Images Sometimes.  May contain charts, diagrams, and tables; photography is rare outside of specific disciplines. Yes.  Heavily illustrated with many photos
Advertisements Rarely.  If so, they are small, discreet, and subject related Yes.  Profit-based publication; a significant portion is allocated to ads 
Length Longer.  Length is variable, but usually between 10-30 pages Shorter.  A couple hundred words to a few pages

Information in this table was created in conjunction with viewing the University of Victoria's Research Tips Central pages.

The CRAAP Test

You can use the "CRAAP" test to help you evaluate the information sources you find.

Currency – How up-to-date is the information?

Relevance – Is the information directly about your topic?  Is it too simple?  Too complex?

Authority – Who is the author?  What are his/her credentials?  Where was the information published?

Accuracy – Where does the information come from?  Is it consistent with unrelated sources?

Purpose – Why was this information published

Evaluating books

When you find a book in the catalog or on the shelf, how do you decide if it is a good source for your research?  Books generally undergo more evaluation before publishing than some websites, and, if a library owns a book, that means more evaluation has taken place (for purchase and inclusion).  However, you still need to check for quality and relevance.  Here is a link to some questions you should ask:

Evaluating a Wikipedia Article

When looking at a specific Wikipedia article, consider the following

  • Are there any boxes indicating that additional references or other improvement is needed?
  • Are there references and/or external links listed at the end of the article?  Are they mostly to websites or other Wikipedia articles? Do they look useful?
  • Click on the Talk tab.  Are there ratings or indications of the quality or comprehensiveness?  Is there a list of what needs to be added or changed?  Are there any questions about the validity of this article?


  • Click on the “View History” tab near the top. Then click on (earliest). When was this article created?. 
  • On average, about how often is this article edited? Lots of editing can improve the quality, but sometimes it can mean there is disagreement.
  • Approximately how many people appear to have contributed to this article ( just a handful? too many to count?)
  • Is there evidence of edit wars or arguments over content (for example, the same changes keep getting made then undone)?
  • Is there evidence of frequent vandalism (many changes with edits that say “vandalism” or something similar)?