Virtual Help icon Virtual Help

  • Chat with library staff now
  • Contact your library
Skip to Main Content

Evaluate Your Evidence (Module 1 of 6)

At the same time as you’re finding content from your library and the web, you should be evaluating the information for quality. Keep in mind that not all the information you find online is credible, reliable, or even appropriate for your topic, so you must take a close look at what you are using. In this module, you will learn how to determine whether or not you should use a particular source for your research assignment. You will also learn about Evidence-Based Practice and the hierarchy of evidence for clinical practice.


This module can help you evaluate evidence to use in your academic paper. Explore the information on this page for help finding quality sources.

  • Evaluate everything you find as you’re searching.Remember not everything you find online is reliable. And depending on your topic, you may need your information more current. Think about what types of resources you need and evaluate each one as you’re searching. With practice, this step will become second-nature!
  • Use an evaluation checklist.Use the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose (CRAAP) Evaluation Checklist, or another evaluation tool when selecting websites. These evaluation tools will help you identify the best possible resources for your assignment.
  • Evaluate journal articles critically.Just because they are published in academic journals, does not mean they shouldn't be evaluated for validity. Take a look at the article sections, and evaluate information shared by the authors critically. If a claim made in a journal article seems at odds with consensus, try to find other articles that back up or dispute the claims made. For example, one article may be published about the benefits of an alternative health method. However, consensus from various academic journals may dispute this claim, and the first article can be ignored.
  • Consider content in open access journals.Some open access journals are more reliable than others. Whenever using this type of an information source, try to find out as much as possible about the journal itself, and its article selection process.

Evaluating Your Evidence

Getting Starting Evaluating Evidence

A crucial stage in the search process is determining if the resources you find are quality sources. This is because you want to know if you can trust the information you find and whether it is appropriate for your purpose. This requires you to evaluate the sources before you use them in your assignment. Explore the tabs for the following information and tools to help you evaluate your sources:

  • Evaluating Journal Articles
  • Using the CRAAP test
  • Evaluation Checklists

Evaluating Journal Articles

Academic journal articles communicate or describe research on a specific subject. Scholarly journal articles present original research, while other comment on previously published research on a topic, in literature reviews.

When evaluating academic journal articles for quality, take a look at the individual sections of the paper.

The Abstract is a summary of an article. An Abstract provides a big picture overview of what the article is about, synthesizing the most important information. It should also identify both the purpose of the research, as well as its conclusions.

Question to ask:

  1. According to the abstract, what is the main point of the article?

The Introduction should give you an understanding of what is being researched, how, and why the research is of importance. When you read the introduction section of a journal article, you should have a clear idea of what the article is about, and what the research focus is.

An Introduction will identify the importance of the research to the academic field, and provide you with a clear hypothesis or a research question/statement.

Questions to ask:

  1. What issues do the authors seem concerned about?
  2. What is the authors’ research question or hypothesis?

The Literature Review is a comprehensive scan of previously published research on a specific topic. Authors use the literature review to provide readers with a current understanding of the topic, and identify existing research gaps.

Questions to ask:

  1. How relevant is the literature review to the article's research questions?
  2. Does the literature review include opposing viewpoints?

In the Methods section, you should be able to find information about the authors' research process. Was the research qualitative or quantitative? How big was their sample group/test population? On occasion authors will include the full research instrument in the Appendix (at the end of the article). The Methodology section might feature tables, statistical analyses, calculations, and questions asked as part of the research.

Questions to ask:

  1. What type of study did the authors undertake to arrive at their results (e.g. randomized trials, case studies)?
  2. How was the data collected (e.g. survey, focus groups, individual interviews)?
  3. How extensive was the population sample?

The Results section is where you find information about the final results of the authors' research. Here, you should be able to read about, the analyzed results of the study, as well as have access to raw statistical data.

Are these results shared with the readers? Are they clearly stated? Is there access to supporting analysis such as graphs, charts, tables that are clear and easy to follow? do you have access to the statistics? Can you figure out the results of the experiment, survey, etc, without a discussion of why they occurred?

Questions to ask:

  1. What are the authors' findings?
  2. Are the findings aligned to the main research question/s?
  3. Do the authors address the problems or limitations of their research methods?

Check out the discussion of the results and the authors overall observations in the conclusion of the article. Are all the results of the experiment, survey, etc discussed? Are the conclusions drawn from this experiment based on enough data? Are there previous studies done on this topic and are they part of the discussion, or are you left confused?

Questions to ask:

  1. What evidence do authors provide to support or dispute their research question?
  2. Do the authors provide any recommendations as a result of their findings?
  3. Are any conflicts of interest disclosed?

The References section provides you with a full scope of research consulted as part of the authors' project. References are an excellent way to find additional journal articles on a specific topic.

Understanding The CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test is a method for quickly evaluating sources for quality. It stands for Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. Watch the video to learn about the CRAAP Test. The video includes some questions to check your knowledge of each component of the CRAAP Test. You can also see a text-based version of this interactive video by downloading the CRAAP Test transcript.

Evaluation Checklists

Evaluation checklists can be handy tools for evaluating sources. In addition to general checklists, some checklists are especially relevant to the health sciences; these are sometimes called critical appraisal tools. Consult the evaluation checklists and tools for help evaluating sources.

Evaluation Checklists:

Evidence-Based Practice (EBP)

Evidence-Based Practice is the use of the best evidence in making decisions about the care of patients. It involves a hierarchy of evidence to help you evaluate the evidence you use. EBP is used in clinical practice, but your professors may also ask you to use the hierarchy of evidence as part of your assignments. Complete the activity below to learn more about EBP and the hierarchy of evidence.

Terminology Tip: What is Evidence-Informed Practice?

Some clinicians and researchers have started using the term “evidence-informed practice” instead of EBP. The goal of this shift in language is to emphasize that while evidence should inform clinical practice, clinical expertise is still essential. Many people use the two terms interchangeably.