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Research Starter - ENGL 110 B. Conn

The C. R. A. P. Test

When choosing a resource, it is important to determine the credibility and reliability of that resource.  To do that, we recommend the CRAP test: 

Currency 

  • What is the publication date?
  • and how does this date impact your topic of research?
    • Remember, newer doesn't always mean better.  The need for currency depends heavily on the topic of your paper. 
    • If you are evaluating a website, the publication or copyright date will help you determine if the site is current.  If you can't find a date on a website, beware; the information on the site might very well be out-of-date.  Broken links are another sign that the site has not been updated recently.  

Relevancy/Reliability

  • Does this resource actually deal with your topic?  
    • Be careful that you aren't choosing a resource just because it has your keyword somewhere in the title or contents. Make sure the work has a substantial portion that directly addresses your research topic.
  • Does the resource provide references for the included information?
  • When you are evaluating a website, web addresses that end in .gov and .org are typically more reliable than .com sites.  

Authority/Accuracy

  • Who is the author of the resource?  
  • Do they have substantial academic or professional experience and credentials that give them the authority to speak on this topic?
  • For websites, consider the organization associated with the site or publishing the site.

Purpose/Point-of-view

  • Why was this resource written?  To inform or persuade?  
  • Be aware of any bias that the author may have toward your subject that could taint the authority and reliability of the information provided in their work.  

Primary vs. Secondary Resources

Sources are divided into two main groups; primary and secondary.  

Primary sources provide a firsthand account or insiders look at a specific person, a specific time period or a specific event.  If a primary source could speak to us it would say, “I was there; this is my experience or my experiment.”  Examples of primary sources include diaries, personal journals, autobiographies, memoirs, personal correspondence, interviews, speeches, newspaper articles or news footage from a specific time in history, official records, original photographs, creative works such as plays, poetry, music or art, and also original research data.  Primary sources can be documents, photographs, film or video footage, and objects/artifacts.

A secondary source is an interpretation or analysis of one or more primary sources.  If a secondary source could speak to us it would say, “I wasn’t there but I read about it and these are my thoughts on the matter.”  Examples of secondary resources include such publications as biographies, commentaries, criticisms, textbooks, articles, and critical essays.  

Example:   

      

The first book on the left, I am Not Spock, was written by Leonard Nimoy and is his personal account of his experiences of portraying the character of Spock in the television series Star Trek.  The next book, Star Trek: Movie Memories, was written by William Shatner who portrayed the character of Captain James T. Kirk and discusses his experiences during the creation of the Star Trek films.  Each of these sources say to us, "I was there; this is my experience."  These are primary sources.

The last book, Star Trek as Myth, is a collection of essays about Star Trek.  This book is comprised of the different authors' interpretations and analysis of the mythology of the television series and films.  This book says to us, "I wasn’t there, but I watched Star Trek and these are my thoughts on the matter."  This book is a secondary resource.

Evaluation Criteria Practice

Above you will find three sample citations that could be used to help you practice determining the reliability of a resource.

Please contact the library if you have questions as you work through the examples.