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ECON 212: Critically Evaluate Information

Critically Evaluate Information

Critically Evaluating Sources

For college-level research, you'll want to consider using only the highest-quality information sources that you can find. Between the internet and SU’s library, the “best” information can depend on the assignment. Here are some ways to determine the best information sources to lend support to your own research.

Use the C.R.A.P. method to evaluate information that you may consider using: (Currency, Relevance, Author expertise, and Purpose)


Consider each

Why is this important?

Is the source Current?

  • When was the source published?
  • If it’s a website, when was it last updated?
  • Does your topic require current information or more historical resources?
  • Can you find even more current sources than this one?

Check your research assignment directions. Some majors/disciplines require students to use only the most current scholarship in the field, while current scholarship is not important for others.

In the sciences, the most up-to-date research is often considered the most valuable. For example, a research study about new technology from ten years ago might be less important than a study conducted last year.

Is the source Relevant?

  • Does the source support your argument/idea/question?
  • Does the source meet your assignment requirements?
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?

Every single source that shows up in your work should be there for a reason and your reader should not have to guess what that reason is.

Every source that you include in your research work should be there to strengthen your idea or argument.

Is the Author an expert?

  • Authors of the source should be experts in some way. If you must use a scholarly source, an expert authority on the subject will have an advanced degree such as a PhD.
  • Is the author affiliated with a prominent organization or educational institution?
  • Can you find information about the author from reference sources or the internet? 

Consider an author’s credentials before you commit to using the information that they have made public. Experts often have advanced academic degrees, institutional affiliations, and long track records of publishing articles and books containing earlier research. Find author information:

In books – About the Author page

In articles from a database – the article citation or the article itself.

Website – the top or bottom of an article; the "about" page (if one exists); the very bottom of the webpage look to see if an organization claims copyright if the author's name cannot be found elsewhere

What is the source’s Purpose?

  • Is the author’s purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform?
  • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
    Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove the claim?
  • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

 An author’s bias can affect the validity or even the truthfulness of the information they have made public, treating one side of an issue more favorably than another. For example, an Apple website will claim its iPhone is the best in the world. Motorola will claim its Droid is the best. They both make this claim because they want to sell their phones.

Consumer Reports, an un-biased group who rates products, will study both phones and determine superiority based on what consumers desire and they make that viewpoint known to readers.

Using biased sources to support your ideas makes it easy for your audience to challenge the validity of your argument or analysis.