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FYP Guide: Evaluating Sources

This guide lists essential Library services for students doing their Final Year Project (FYP).

Why do you need to evaluate sources?

Evaluating sources is an integral part of writing your literature review, so much so that there is an entire page dedicated to it. This is a core skill for university students, and it is important to demonstrate that you are able to do this in your FYP. You should have learned how to do this throughout the course of your university education, but if you have forgotten, or are still unsure, this guide will give you a refresher and guide you to do so using the CRAAP framework, a commonly used framework for evaluating sources for use in academic writing.

CRAAP Framework - Quick Reference

The CRAAP framework was developed by the California State University, Chico, Meriam Library.

It consists of the below five components to evaluate information:

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose

See the below link for a checklist based on CRAAP.

Evaluating Sources using the CRAAP Framework

When you first find a source that you wish to use for your literature review, you should evaluate it closely, and try to corroborate its claims or its data with other sources so as to ascertain its reliability for use in your FYP. There are many ways to do this, and one commonly used framework is known as the "CRAAP test". This section of the guide will explain what to look out for when evaluating sources using this framework.

Currency

Always look for the date of publication or writing when you find any source. It is especially important to know when a certain piece of information was posted or shared when you are evaluating websites and news articles, as using outdated information can make your literature review seem poorly researched. You will also want to avoid presenting the literature you review in the wrong chronological order.

Look out for descriptions of when a certain piece of information was gathered, and when corroborating the information, check if there are any updates or new developments for the information you've found.

Some example questions you want to ask yourself:

  • When was the information gathered, and when was the article written?
  • Are there any updates between the time it was written and the present time?

Relevance

Evaluating the relevance of a source is not a purely subjective decision on whether it is useful or not. One important consideration is to determine whether the information source is an in-depth analysis or discussion, and what is the breadth of its coverage. You will want to make sure you have enough sources with in-depth analysis in your literature review, and at the same time, you want to make sure it is not too in-depth in an area that is not what your FYP is about.

Some example questions you want to ask yourself:

  • Is this an in-depth article, or a more generic overview?
  • Is the scope of this source specific to your research topic?
  • Does it address concerns of the other sources you have found on the topic?

Authority

Finding out who produced the information you are reading is a very important part of evaluating a source. Information sourced from persons without specialist training or knowledge may be less reliable. But do also note you should be evaluating the author's credentials in the context of the subject of your research. Just because an author is a well-known professor doesn't mean that he is an expert in the area of research of your FYP.

Some example questions you want to ask yourself:

  • What are the author's credentials? Is the author an academic in a known educational institute?
  • Does he actually exist, and have a profile you can double check?
  • What is the author an expert in? Does his expertise match the subject of the information provided in the source?

Accuracy

Evaluating the accuracy of an information source you are considering to use in your literature review involves corroborating the claims and data that the source describes, and you can do this in a variety of ways. You can, of course, look for the original source of information to check the numbers. You can also investigate how the conclusion is reached, and what methods the authors used to get to their conclusion. You can also check to see if another information source has supported, or disproven, the information or claims.

Some example questions you want to ask yourself:

  • What are the sources that the author as quoted? Run those sources through the same CRAAP evaluation: can they be trusted?
  • What methods did the author use to derive their results or conclusions? Are these the right methods to use?
  • Are there any sources that dispute the results? What are the possible reasons for discrepancies?

Purpose

When evaluating a source for its purpose, you are trying to find out what are the inherent biases in the information source so that you can make an effort to try and include other sources that address any concerns that arise because of these biases. Just by simply evaluating a source based on what its intended audience or goals are, can help you write a more comprehensive literature review.

Some example questions you want to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of the information source - is it educational (for teaching), or persuasive (part of a debate), or for value (advertisements)?
  • What is the purpose of the website you found this source in? Does it sell any products?
  • Who are the intended audience? Is it for any particular demographic group (young or old, gender, even political party or religious affiliation?)
  • Is any of the above being hidden or intentionally made difficult to find out? Does the website or information source state its purpose clearly and obviously?