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The Process of Formal Inquiry

Research is a messy, non-linear, and stimulating process. You begin with a general curiosity, add additional information and analysis, and soon you form focused, researchable questions. As your questions change, so will your research objectives, research strategies, and types of sources.

A chart displaying the cycle of academic inquiry in the sciences

How can I evaluate a source?

Evaluate your sources in order to determine how appropriate a source might be for your research project. This is adapted from Meriam Library's CRAAP Test.


• When was the information published or posted?
• Has the information been revised or updated? 


• How central (or peripheral) is this work in relation to your research?
• What are the connections between this work and your work?
• Is the intended audience disciplinary scholars, practitioners, the public, or other groups? 
• Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?


• Who is the author/editor/publisher/source/sponsor?
• What author credentials or organizational affliations, if any, are provided?


• Where does the information come from? Can you trace the source?
• Has the information been reviewed or refereed, and by whom?
• Are you given enough information to verify and evaluate for yourself the who, what, when, why, where, and how?   


• Is this intended to add new knowledge to the field, explain highly specialized knowledge to non-specialists, persuade or entertain an audience, etc.?
• Is this intent stated clearly anywhere in the text or by the publisher?
• Do other sources suggest an alternative purpose for this text? (e.g. written for novices, but also useful to experts)