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Evaluating Sources

How to identify what sources you should use for your research


The TRAAP Test, below, is one way to evaluate a source. While not all of these will apply to every kind of source (for instance, not all are applicable to a website), using the test is a good way to think critically about the source and the information from the source.


The Traap Test: Evaluating Information
Don’t be trapped by sources--learn how to evaluate them!
(adapted from the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico)

Timeliness: The "newness" of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Have there been new versions or editions since this was published?
  • How quickly does new research for this topic come out?
  • Does new research expand upon or replace old information for this topic? 
Relevance: The depth and importance of the information for you
  • Does this source help answer your question? Does only part of it help?
  • Is it covering all aspects of your topic or only parts?
  • How detailed is the information? Is it too basic for your needs? Too advanced?
Authority: The source of the information
  • Who is the author? What can you find about her in the source itself or through a web search?
  • Is the author a professor or other expert? Does she have a degree related to the topic? Has she written on the topic previously?
  • Is the author drawing from her own personal experience?
  • Has the information been reviewed in some way, such as by an editor, fact checker, or through peer review? Was it self-published or posted on a personal site?
Accuracy: The reliability and correctness of the information
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Does the author cite other sources? What does she cite?
  • For websites, did the author provide links to other sources? Do the links still work?
  • For studies, experiments, and other original research, does the author explain the methods she used to find her results?
  • Does the information in this resource agree with other resources you have found and your own personal knowledge?
Purpose: The reason the information was created
  • Why did the author publish this source? Is she looking to inform, teach, advocate, sell, or entertain?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is this designed for general readers or academic readers?
  • What political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, personal or other perspectives does the author have?
  • What perspectives are not included within this resource, especially less privileged perspectives?  

Download the TRAAP Test