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Business Research

This guide was designed to help business students understand the basics of how to perform academic research.

Is this a quality resource?

What makes a good resource?

Relevancy - Does this source deal specifically with your topic?

Scope - Does this source only mention your topic briefly or does a substantial portion of the resource discuss your topic?

Currency (as applicable to the topic) - When was this piece written? Does the age of the source affect its relevancy to your topic?

Credibility/Reliability - Who is the author?  Do they have the authority to speak about this topic?  What are the author’s credentials?  Has this resource been reviewed by other experts in this field of study?  

Purpose - Informative vs. Persuasive. What is the intention of this source? Is the author trying to persuade you or is the author presenting information? Is there a bias you should be mindful of?

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


  • 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  If you can't find a date on a website, beware; the information on the site might very well be out-of-date.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.  


  • 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.  


  • 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.


  • 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.  

For example, let's perform the C.R.A.P. test on the following resource:

Bertini M, Tavassoli N. (2017). Case study: When you have to choose between core and new customers: An extreme sports company considers a VIP tier. Harvard Business Review, 95(5):143-147.

Research Topic: Promoting Customer Loyalty

Currency: This article was published in 2017, so it is relatively current. This article is going to provide up-to-date information pertaining to current customer loyalty initiatives. Depending on your research topic, you may want only the most current information. However, some aspects of research, such as looking at the history of customer loyalty initiatives, may require you to look at some older materials. So, the currency need of your sources depends heavily on your research topic.      

Relevancy/Reliability: The main subject headings of this article are customer loyalty and business expansion, both of which deal directly with our research which is concerned with promoting customer loyalty.  Another way to make certain that the resource is relevant to your research is to ensure that the resource's conversation centers around your topic, for example, an entire article should address your research topic or at least a whole chapter in a book.  Resources that only briefly mention your topic are not providing you with enough relevant information to truly impact your research. 

Authority/Accuracy:  It is important to know who is authoring the information you are reading.  Do they have the academic and/or professional experience to speak authoritatively about this subject area?  Authors that have academic and professional experience in the field they are writing about can be trusted to provide more accurate information.  

Sometimes, the article or book will provide a brief bio that informs us of the author's credentials.  This particular article does have that information (quoted below) and it appears that both of our authors hold faculty positions at business schools. If the resource you are evaluating does not provide biographical information about the author, perform a web search for the author in order to learn a little bit more about them. 

  • "Marco Bertini is an associate professor and heads the marketing subject area at ESADE Business School."
  • "Nader Tavassoli is a professor of marketing at London Business School and the nonexecutive chairman of the Brand Inside."

Purpose/Point-of-view: This particular article was written to share with readers a case study that students in the authors' classes use to determine how best to go about maintaining satisfaction among loyal customers while also reaching out to new customers. As a result, we can be assured that this article was written to inform the audience about the topic being discussed.   

This resource has passed the C.R.A.P. test and can be confidently used as a credible and reliable resource for our research!

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

Primary sources provide a firsthand account or insider's look at a specific person, a specific time period, or a specific event. Primary sources can be documents, photographs, film or video footage, and objects/artifacts. In business, primary sources are what a company or industry says about itself. This can include annual reports, financial statements, press releases, presentations, speeches, interviews, organizational blogs, tweets, etc.

A secondary source is an interpretation or analysis of one or more primary sources. Examples of secondary resources typically include such publications as biographies, commentaries, criticisms, textbooks, articles, and critical essays. In business, secondary sources are what others say about a company or industry. This can include a market research report, articles in newspapers, magazines, and trade publications, a peer-reviewed article, books, or other media sources.

Peer-reviewed simply means that the article’s content has been checked by other experts in that specific field of study for accuracy and reliability.  These resources are also often referred to as scholarly articles or academic articles.

5 Clues that the article is peer-reviewed:

  1. References – always look for a list of works cited, a bibliography, or a reference list
  2. Author – educational and professional credentials provided
  3. Abstract – a short summary highlighting the content of the article
  4. Audience – content written using specialized terminology
  5. Graphs and Charts – visually communicated empirical data