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Ready, Set, Research

This guide is geared toward students who need to prepare research papers and/or speeches for college courses.

Credibility is Crucial!

As you begin to answer your research questions, you need to be sure that you are using the best possible sources of information. You will likely find a variety of sources during your research: books, articles, Web documents, interviews, DVDs, and more.  For each and every source you use you want to make sure it passed the CRAAP test: 

CRAAP Test criteria


Scholarly, Substantive, and Popular Sources

As you set out to answer your research questions, you will come across many different sources. It is crucial you understand that not all sources are created equal! There are many types of sources, and although they can all potentially play some role in your research, not all are suitable for inclusion on an academic bibliography. Types of sources include Scholarly, Substantive, and Popular publications.  It is essential you are able to identify them and understand their differences.


  • Authors =  scholars/experts
  • Audience =  scholars/experts
  • Purpose = communicate specific information within an academic or professional discipline
  • Characteristics = Scholarly language, author credentials, long articles, extensive bibliographies, often peer-reviewed
  • Example: Journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Bottom line: Highly credible. Always a good choice for academic work, but know what you're getting into.


  • Authors = scholars or journalists
  • Audience = educated, but non-expert
  • Purpose = communicate information of interest and import + to make a profit
  • Characteristics = accessible language/style, medium length
  • Example: Newspapers (New York Times) and some magazines (National Geographic, The Economist)
  • Bottom line: Credible. Most community college instructors will allow some substantive material. Watch for bias.


  • Authors = journalists, staff writers, freelance writers, enthusiasts
  • Audience = general
  • Purpose = entertain, sell, inflame
  • Characteristics = easy to read, short articles, highly entertaining, lots of pictures and ads
  • Example: Some magazines (Men's Health, People) and many Web pages
  • Bottom line: not suitable for school, but what fun!