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Literature Review & Research Skills Guide: Evaluation & Critical Appraisal

Evaluate & Critical Appraisal

Using credible information will improve the quality of your assessment and may result in better marks, but how can you tell whether the resources you've found are credible and suitable for your research? Have you been asked to use peer reviewed or refereed articles? 

The information below will help you evaluate the information you find, in books, journal articles, or online to make sure it’s reliable.

Evaluate information

Use the CRAP test to evaluate any resources you want to use in your assessments.

Criteria Ask Yourself Example
Currency
  • When was the information published?
  • Does currency matter for this topic?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?
  • When was the webpage last updated?

History of educational theories - older resources may be appropriate

vs

Social media in education -  older resources may not be appropriate

Reliability
  • Who published the information?
  • Is the source reputable? Is it peer reviewed?
  • Does the creator provide references and are those references credible?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

A satirical news website (e.g. Betoota Advocate)

vs

A not for profit media group sourcing content from academics and researchers (e.g. The Conversation)

Authority
  • Who is the creator or author? Sources without an author may be less credible
  • What are their qualifications, affiliations and experience?
  • Are they an expert in the field?

An article written by a self-appointed expert that appears on a blog

vs

A peer reviewed article written by a team of university academics

Purpose
  • Why was the information published and who is the intended audience?
  • Is the creator trying to sell, inform, entertain, persuade?
  • Is it fact or opinion?
  • Is it biased or balanced?

A webpage on diabetes from a pharmacy company that produces drugs to treat diabetes. They may have a vested interest.

vs

Diabetes information from a government website such as Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW). They have no vested interest.

Critical appraisal or critiquing the literature

Reading critically

The Sage Research Methods Online database (SRMO) is a good source of full text electronic Books, chapters, and articles on a range of research methodologies.  It includes a wide range of items in relation to literature review processes, and importantly how to read critically.

Examples:
Goodwyn, A., & Stables, A. W. (2004). Learning to Read Critically: Learning to read critically in language and literacy. SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781849209410

Quinton, S., & Smallbone, T. (2006). How to read critically. In Sage Study Skills: Postgraduate research in business (pp. 81-96). SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781849209564.n6

Assessing Sources of Information

Please watch the following video:

Play video - How do you assess these sources of information?

Evaluating information

Peer Review

Find Peer reviewed articles

Articles published in peer reviewed or refereed journals have been through a formal approval process. This process is intended to ensure that the article is:

  • accurate
  • well-researched
  • contributing to the body of knowledge in the field

To find peer reviewed articles:

  • Select to show only peer reviewed journals in Primo Search
  • Limit to peer reviewed or scholarly journals in journal databases

However, as these options are just an indication of peer review status the definitive way to find out if your article has been peer reviewed is to use Ulrichsweb Global Periodicals Directory.