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Engineering: Evaluating Information Sources

Books, databases and tutorials to aid in locating engineering information

Evaluating Information Sources

When using information resources like journal articles, Websites, books, government documents, etc. it is important to think about the source and if it fulfils your need. This page provides some things to consider when evaluating information.

The CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test checklist of questions was developed by a CSU-Chico Librarian to help you evaluate the information you find. The criteria are Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose. Click on the link below for the full checklist.

Evaluate the Source of Information

Some questions can be answered while you are looking at your search results in a database or search engines. Know the content of the databases, read abstracts (if available), do author searches, look at subject headings, and notice publication information (for dates, places, and publishers). Other questions will be answered when you are looking at the publication itself or at the full-text in a database.

  • Who is the author of the information, and what qualifications to they have on this topic? What is their relevant education, experience, occupation, or other publications?
  • Who is the intended audience?  Is it for the general public, for students, for professionals or other researchers, etc.?
  • What type of source is it? Is it scholarly, popular, commercial, governmental, or private? Is the presentation suitable for your level of understanding of the subject (not too simple or too difficult)?
  • When was the information produced? Is your topic one that is likely to have had significant changes since the source was published? Do you need current information or a historical perspective?
  • Where was the information published? Does it focus on a specific part of the world or region?
  • Why was the information published? Does the source show political or cultural bias?
  • How is the information organized? Are there appendixes, indexes, and/or a bibliography included? Does it have graphs, charts, glossaries, or illustrations to help explain or augment the information?

Evaluate the Information Content Itself

Finally, after you have read through a book, an article, or other publication, you should be able to answer questions about the type and quality of information that it gives.

  • Does the source contain the information you need? (See Defining your Information Need)
  • Does it report primary research (e.g. experiments, observations, surveys) or is it a compilation of previous research, like a review article or meta-analysis? Is there documentation of other works used (bibliography, footnotes, references, etc.)?
  • What is the author's thesis? What are the main points or concepts?
  • What facts or opinions are presented? Is more than one point of view presented? What are the major findings or conclusions, and are they supported by the facts or arguments?
  • Do other sources support the facts and/or conclusions of this source? Do the findings support or refute your own ideas on the topic?