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Clinical Pharmacology Subject Guide

Evaluating information

Image of woman browsing a journal in library rolling stacks, overlayed with text that reads 'evaluating information'

Once you’ve found a piece of information, you will be expected to judge its reliability and suitability to be used in an academic assignment. 

This page outlines the key things to think about when evaluating information.

Basic Evaluation Model

There a number of simple questions you can ask yourself when deciding whether or not to use a particular source in your academic writing:


What?
What is the resource? e.g. book, article, website...
 

Who?
Who is the author? Are they a qualified person/organisation? Can you find out anything about the author?
 

Why?
Has the resource been written to try and sell you something or persuade you of something? Is this made clear? Does it give a balanced point of view?
 

When?
When was it published or last updated? Can you tell?
 

Where?
Where is the information from? e.g. is it a journal article from a peer-reviewed publication, or from anonymous blog post? Does it have any references?
 

How?
How is it relevant to your assignment? If not, then even it is of good quality, it is not for you.

 

flag Judge a resource on all the criteria

You can use these questions to help decide if any type of information is good enough to include in your academic work. Remember to look at all the criteria before making a decision.

If you need more help with evaluating websites, try this evaluating information flow chart created by Cardiff University Information Services.

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Information adapted from University of East Anglia Library with permission.

CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test is another handy checklist (and memorable acronym) to use when evaluating a resource. CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose and each category offers a series of questions to ask yourself when assessing the credibility of a resource. These are slightly more detailed that those listed in the basic evaluation model above. The CRAAP test was developed by librarians at California State University, Chico and has been adapted for inclusion in the table below:

 

 Currency 

  - the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Do the links work?
 Relevance

  - the appropriateness of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your questions?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
 Authority

  - the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organisational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Are the authors or the website referred to by other trusted sources?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? (e.g. .com .org .ac.uk .nhs.uk)
 Accuracy

  - the reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
 Purpose

  - the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions/purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or person biases?

 

 

flag Remember!

Different criteria may be more or less important depending on your situation.

Remember to look at all the criteria before making a decision.