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Resources For High School Students: Evaluate Information

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Activity: Engage with Sources

Activity: Engage with Sources

All sources you find when engaging in research are part of an ongoing conversation about a particular topic. It's your job as a writer and researcher to evaluate your sources to determine their credibility and authority, and their contribution to the broader conversation.


"What is the impact of vaping on public health in the United States?"

Consider these questions as you examine the sources below.

What type of source are you looking at? Use the Information Sources handout to help you decide.
What aspects of this source should/would you consider in deciding whether to use this source in your own research?



  • Source publisher. What's their mission or purpose?
  • Source author. Who are they, and what authority do they have on this topic?
  • Sources referenced. Where do they lead? How easy is it to find citations?

Using Wikipedia Effectively

This video from Penn State University explains how to use Wikipedia effectively as a starting point for you research, even if Wikipedia isn't considered an authoritative source.

Types of Information Sources

For an assignment, you may be required to use (or not use) certain types of sources. Source types all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Use the chart below to learn about different types of sources and the information they contain.


Source Author Audience Best For Watch for/Consider


Journalists, Columnists General audience

Daily local, national, and international news, events, and editorial coverage

Statistics and photojournalism

Record of events, and quotes from experts, officials, and witnesses

Authors not typically experts

If a story is breaking, corrections to initial report likely

Editorial bias of the publication

Magazines Columnists, freelance writers; little or no information about the authors provided General audience, or those with a specific recreational interests (sports, fashion, science, etc)

Current information

Short, easy to understand articles

Photographs and illustrations

Authors not usually experts

Sources not always cited
Scholarly/Academic Journals A professional or expert in the field; usually has an advanced degree in the field Scholars, researchers, professionals, and university students in the field; audience may have a broad knowledge or understanding of the specialized language

In-depth research on a topic

Focused, peer-reviewed articles written by experts

Data, charts, and graphs

Bibliographies of other sources

Terminology or data may be difficult to understand

May be 10-40 pages long
Books Researcher or professional in the field; look for books published by university or scholarly presses Varies (general audience through scholar)

Comprehensive overview of a topic

Background and historical context

Bibliographies of other source

Dated information

Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc)
Websites Anyone; expertise or credibility cannot be assured General audience


Government information

Company information

Alternate points of view

Credibility and accuracy cannot be assured

Bias (dependent on author, publisher, etc)

Sources not always cited


Does it pass the CRAAP Test?

Does it pass the CRAAP test?

Evaluating information, whether online or in print, is an essential step in the research process. The following criteria and questions -- known as the CRAAP Test* -- are useful to evaluating websites and other information sources.

Currency When was this book or article published, or when was the web page created or last updated? Do you need more current information? Do links on the site still connect to their destination?
Relevance Is this source pertinent to your research topic? How can you use this information in your research? Could you provide a citation to this source in your research?
Accuracy Does the information presented seem accurate? Are the facts verifiable from other sources? Does the author list his or her sources?
Authority Who is the author? What expertise does he or she have on this topic? Who sponsors the publication or website? Checking the website address may indicate who sponsors that website.
Websites belonging to a commercial entity, a non-profit organization, or an individual.
.edu Websites belonging to colleges or universities, or faculty researchers or students at that institution.
.gov Websites belonging to federal, state or municipal government agencies.
.org Websites may belong to a non-profit organization, but not always.
Purpose Who is the intended audience? What is the stated purpose of the publication or website? What position or opinion is presented, and is it presented objectively or with a bias or agenda? For websites, check the "About..." link if there is one. What other websites does this one link to?


* The CRAAP acronym and descriptions are from Meriam Library at California State University Chico. CRAAP Test from the Meriam Library website.

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