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HISTORY: Academic Inquiry

Research Process

  • Research doesn't happen in a straight line from start (assignment prompt) to finish (polished paper/presentation).
  • Research includes finding background information to help you shape your ideas.
  • Research incorporates analyses from journalists and scholars, whose ideas help you reframe and revise your research questions.
  • Research includes making evaluative decisions about which and whose perspectives to incorporate into your own scholarship.


The Information Cycle

The CRAAP Test: Evaluating Your Sources

The CRAAP Test -- Whether reading a book, article, or website, be an information skeptic--scrutinize, analyze, and evaluate your sources.

• 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• Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?
• How well does this suit your topic or answer your questions? 
• Who is the intended audience?
• Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
• Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
• Are the author’s credentials or organizational affliations given?
• What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
• Is there a way to contact the author?
• Where does the information come from?
• Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
• Can you verify any of the information?
• Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion? 
• Is the purpose to inform, sell, entertain, or persuade?
• Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions clear?
• Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?

From Topic to Research Questions


Learn more about narrowing a topic and developing a research question.

How could I use this source of information?

What could a writer/presenter/performer do with this source?

More on "How to Use Sources Effectively."

Based on Bizup, J. (2008). BEAM: A rhetorical vocabulary for teaching research-based writing. Rhetoric Review 27.1, 72-86.

Does the information source fit my assignment?

Information Need Sources to Consult Search Tools & Help
Overview of Topic
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks
  • Ask a librarian
  • Search Primo (Limit by Resource Type: Reference Entry)
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks
  • Ask a librarian
  • Search Primo (Limit by Resource Type: Reference Entry)
Primary Sources (first hand or contemporary accounts)
  • Books
  • Digital archives
  • Magazines & newspapers
  • Videos
Secondary Sources (comprehensive and/or detailed analyses)
  • Journal articles
  • Books
  • Some magazines & newspapers
  • Dictionaries
  • Almanacs
  • Statistical Handbooks
  • Ask a librarian
  • Search Primo
Current Events, Popular Culture
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Video
Historical Information
  • Books
  • Digital archives
  • Magazines & newspapers
  • Film
Evaluative Sources
  • Book reviews
  • Film/video reviews
  • Ask a librarian
  • Search Primo
  • Use How Do I? search