S SCI 160 Introduction to Gender Studies (Marshman)

A Guide to Research in Gender Studies - for students in Michelle Marshman's class

Source Evaluation: How to Assess if your Sources are "College-Level"

Evaluating Your Information Sources

Assessing if a source is good enough to use in an academic essay is an essential part of research and writing.

Helpful things to keep in mind:
  • Information is created for different reasons and audiences. While information from Wikipedia or a blog post may be fine for a conversation with friends and family, academic work calls for information that's more reliable and in-depth. 
  • The Web is great for finding many sources of information, including advocacy organizations, local news, think tanks and research institutes, and government info. 
  • Even though a Web search returns millions of results, it's just skimming the surface of available info. It cannot, for example, find information inside library databases. 
  • Use Holman Library resources to find books, videos, news journalism and analysis, and scholarship for your academic work.
  • Assess ALL information, including things you find through Holman Library, to be sure it's the best for your need. 


We all have bias and effective research requires us to use strategies to fight our own biases and to identify bias in our sources.

  • We may use information from an advocacy source, but we should name that bias and make it clear why the information belongs in our essay or presentation.
  • Look for reliable information. Use questions from the CRAAP test below to help with source selection.

Do Your Sources Pass the CRAAP Test?

Evaluation is about asking the right questions and using the C.R.A.A.P test of evaluation is just one way to review and assess the quality of your sources.  Do your sources pass the CRAAP test? If not, find a better source!

Currency: The timeliness of the information
  • How recent is the information? Can you find a date of publication?
  • Is the currency of information important for your particular topic?
  • Does information about your topic change rapidly or frequently?
  • Is older, historical information important for your topic?
  • If source is a website, are the links functional?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? 
  • Is the source popular or scholarly?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Authority: The source of the information
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? 
  • What are the author's qualifications, credentials, organizational/educational affiliations? 
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address? 
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content
  • Where does the information come from?  Does the source list its own references?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in other sources?
  • If a quote, fact, or image used from another source, can you trace it back to the original source? Is the information being used correctly?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors? That may be a clue that this source is not written or edited at the level you need.
Purpose: The reason the information exists
  • What is the information being published? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? 
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Can you determine if the publisher/sponsor has political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
  • For web sources, what is the domain? (.edu, .gov, .com, .org, .net)?
  • For web sources, who are the sponsors of the site?  Are there advertisements? Do they affect or color the information being presented?
Download a copy of the C.R.A.A.P. Test:

Evaluate AUTHORITY to select and cite more effectively

Consider the difference in these two verbal citations:

Verbal citation 1: "All around the world, women earn less than men and have fewer opportunities for both jobs and meaningful careers."


Verbal citation 2: "According to a 2007 report from the United Nations Women: UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women: “'Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.'" (from “Facts & Figures on Women, Poverty & Economics.” UN Women. United Nations. Web. 20 Oct, 2011.)

Which verbal citation is more effective? Why?

Evaluate BIAS to select and cite more effectively

Consider the difference in the following two verbal citations:

Verbal citation 1: "According to homeschooling.com, homeschooled children 'receive a superior education that is attuned specifically to their own needs, learning style, personality and interests.'" 


Verbal citation 2: "According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, 'Eighty-five percent of homeschooled students were being homeschooled, in part, because of their parents' concern about the environment of other schools.'" (from: National Center for Education Statistics, Homeschooling in the US: 2003)


Which verbal citation is more credible? Why?

Recognize & Resist your own Biases

Confirmation Bias 

Confirmation bias refers to the human tendency to favor information that supports what we already think or believe and devalue information that challenges what we think. We are ALL prone to confirmation bias!

Quality research requires keeping an open mind, selecting reliable sources, and learning from those credible sources as you go.

Watch the video below for useful tips on interrupting your own confirmation bias and be sure to evaluate all your information sources!

Source: " 5 Ways to Beat Confirmation Bias " by Causes , is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.