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Research Process

So, you have a research project. This guide will walk you through the research process, from selecting a topic to doing your search and putting it all together.

These are a few categories we might group sources of information into, along with their defining characteristics. Click the icons below for example excerpts from articles in each category. Different types provide information in different ways, and can have varying amounts of credibility.

Which type do I need to use?

This depends on what information you need to find as well as the requirements of your assignment. If your prof says to only use scholarly articles, that's what you're working with.

Different sources are useful at different stages of your research, as well. Are you still figuring out your topic? An encyclopedia-type source is okay to read. Do you need a credible overview of an issue? News or magazine coverage will work. Do you need depth and nuanced analysis? Scholarly journal articles.

CRAAP TestEvaluating Information

Regardless of the format of the information (news article, video, journal article, book, and so on), you do need credible, reliable information! There are a few different mnemonic devices for thinking this through: the most famous is the CRAAP test -- as in, you want a source to pass the CRAAP test to ensure it's not crap.

  • Currency: not too old for your topic
  • Relevance: not just "about your topic" but in the right amount of detail and analysis
  • Accuracy: are there sources provided for the info within? or does it have authority?
  • Authority: is the author or publisher a recognized expert in the field?
  • Purpose: is it trying to persuade you, rile up your emotions, or just inform you?


Other Variations:

  • The 3 Rs: is the information Recent? Reliable? Relevant?
    • Recent: not too old for your topic
    • Reliable: combines accuracy and authority
    • Relevant: "about your topic" and in the right amount of detail and analysis
  • The 5 Ws: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
    • Who produced the information?
    • What is it -- an essay, an opinion piece, a parody? Professional or amateur?
    • When was it created?
    • Where was it published: somewhere reputable or just some site?
    • Why was it created? To inform, to persuade, to entertain...?