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HS 105: Survey of Common Diseases : Evaluating Sources

Why go beyond Google?

Using credible (believable) sources:

To back up your research, it is important to use credible sources as references.  With easy access to Google and the Internet, it is usually not difficult to find information on a topic.  However, it is important to carefully choose your sources to make sure you get the best and most useful information.

Typically, a credible source will include the following characteristics:

  • Current: look for current information on your topic.  Medical information changes quickly.
  • References Included:  look for sources that include a bibliography or work cited list. 
  • Author Credibility:  look for the author’s credentials, qualifications, or organizational affiliations.
  • Objective & Unbiased:  look for sources that include no or few advertisements.  Does the source present information with a minimum of bias?  Is it without conflict of interest?
  • Comprehensive & In-depth: How comprehensive is the source?   Does it go into the depth you need?

In general, scholarly journal articles and books are considered the most credible sources of information, and will add weight to your argument or research. 


When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it . . . but is it good information? You will have to determine that for yourself, and the CRAAP Test can help. The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials?  Affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? (examples: .com, .edu, .org, .net, .gov)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? To inform? Teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Note: the CRAAP test was developed by librarians at CSU Chico.

Scholarly / Peer-reviewed Articles

Scholarly Journals are sometimes also called peer-reviewed journals, or refereed journals.

Indentifying scholarly articles involves analysis of the article's content.

There is not always a clear-cut division between types of published articles, but the table to the right outlines some differences between a scholarly and a popular journals. 

Need help deciding if an article is scholarly or popular?  Use this table of characteristics to help you decide.