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PHYSICS: Academic Inquiry

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. You'll need to know how readable it is to an undergraduate, what role it plays in developing your expertise, and how it fits into your research. 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)