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Sussex Library Search Skills Guide

Evaluating information sources

Before you start writing, think about the sources you're citing! 

hand holding up an open book in a fieldYour assignments should result from your own hard work. That said, your work is not limited to just your views and opinions. Instead, it should be developed by thinking about the research and ideas you have read and engaged with. 

Be honest about anyone else's ideas that you have used or mentioned in your work and acknowledge these sources clearly. 

Whenever you directly copy the words of another author (quoting) or put their ideas into your own words (paraphrasing) you must acknowledge that you have done so, with a reference. 

illustration for decorative purposesPeer reviewed journals

Peer review is a process that ensures articles submitted to an academic journal are fact-checked by several authoritative experts in that subject. The reviewers decide if the article should be published, and may make suggestions of change before publishing.

Many academic journals you find through Library Search have gone through a peer-review process. You can apply a peer-review filter to your search in Library Search, to make it easier to access these texts.

Peer-review is a rigorous vetting process. For example, a Professor at University of Sussex had his 8,000 word paper peer-reviewed upon submission to a scholarly journal, which resulted in 3,000 words worth of comments from four reviewers, one sub-editor, and one editor. Consequently, peer-reviewed articles are often held in higher regard than those which aren't.

square with open padlock symbol and "open access resources" printed on itOpen Access 

If you are searching Google Scholar or similar search engines and find a scholarly article you can freely access, this article is most likely an “open access” article. The rise of open access publishing has changed the ways scholars share and use journal articles. You need to be extra vigilant when evaluating what appear initially to be scholarly journals.

If you have accessed an open access journal article and want to verify its authenticity as a reputable journal, you can check the name on the directory of open access journals (DOAJ).

Are your sources CRAAP?

For your work to meet a high standard you need to be able to substantiate your argument with trustworthy, high-quality sources. When you start your own research it’s important to evaluate the information sources you find for credibility, reliability, and impartiality.

A simple way to evaluate the sources you have found is to determine if they pass the "CRAAP" test:

Currency - When was the information published, revised, posted, or updated?

Relevancy - Does the information relate to your topic, or answer the question?

Authority - Who is the source? What are their credentials?

Accuracy - Is the information provided supported by evidence, statistics, etc? Can these be easily verified?

Purpose - What's the purpose of the information? For example, to educate, to sell, to entertain? 

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