Evaluate with CARP
Learning how to critically evaluate information resources is an essential skill for students undertaking academic research.This is a starting point for evaluating information resources.
The following evaluation criteria apply to both online resources and more traditional formats such as journals, newspapers, magazines and books. A scholarly book or journal article can be just as inappropriate as a commercial website, if it is too old or not suitable for your purpose.
- When was the material written?
- Is it current enough for your topic? Older material might be appropriate for an essay on the history of management theories, but pre 2007 would be too old for an essay on the use of social media in marketing.
Publication dates are generally found on the item record in Primo Search or journal database, with the publication details on a book or an article, or in the Copyright information on a website.
- Who is the creator or author?
- Are their qualifications and affiliations relevant to the subject area? .
- Are there any experts in the field that you should look up? Is your lecturer published? It could be worth looking at any articles or books they have written.
Most scholarly resrources will provide information about the authors, either at the end of an article, in a book introduction or linked to the author's name on a website. If the information isn't easy to find, the resource probably shouldn't be considered authoritative.
- Is the journal peer reviewed, or the publisher reputable?
- Avoid self published resources such as blogs or self-published books, unless you can determine that the author has authority and has preferably had work appear in other reputable sources.
- Don't cite Wikipedia - it can be edited by anyone and is not considered a reliable, scholarly resource. However, Wikipedia can be a good place to start your understanding of a topic, and maybe you can track the information you find there back to something more reliable.
- Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations? Do those references pass the CARP test?
- Have other scholarly books and articles cited it?
Apply the CARP test to the author's reference list. You don't need to look up each reference, but if there is lots of Wikipedia, About.com or other non scholarly looking references, avoid it. Also look for "Cited by" links on the record in journal databases or Google Scholar to see if other authors have used this resource, and use Ulrichsweb to see whether a journal is peer reviewed.
- What is the purpose of the resource? Avoid resources that are trying to sell you something, or offer only opinions with no evidence.
- Why did the author write this? Ideally, it is to share their research results with a scholarly community.
- Does the resource suit your purpose? Read the abstract to find out whether it is suitable. An article could meet all of the CARP criteria, but be written at such an advanced level that you need a PhD to understand it.
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