Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

A Crash Course in Lit Reviews: Evaluating Sources

Types of Sources

Popular: Sources published in newspapers and magazines intended for general audience. 

Scholarly: Well researched sources that have been written for scholars, students, and experts in the discipline area.

Peer Reviewed: Articles that have been evaluated by other professionals in the field to check for accuracy and adherence to disciplinary standards.

Know the Difference

Article: Articles are the individual "stories" published in a newspaper, magazine, or journal. For example, the story about the Rangers published in Sports Illustrated is an article.

Journal: Journals contain several articles published about a specific subject area and are typically scholarly. For example, the article about stem cells was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Database: Databases index millions of articles published in thousands of newspapers, magazines, and journals. There are databases that index sources from many different discipline areas, while others are subject specific. For example, the New York Times can be accessed by searching the database Nexis Uni.

CRAAMP Test

The CRAAMP test is a valuable tool for helping you determine if an article you are reading is credible and a good fit to use as a source for your research paper. As you read, pay attention to the 6 following criteria.

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this information that you are looking for? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic.
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another source? Are studies mentioned but not cited? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Methodology: What type of study did they conduct? Is it an appropriate type of study to answer their research question? How many people were involved in the study? Is the sample size large and diverse enough to give trustworthy results?
  6. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

Use the template below to chart each of these criteria in the articles you use for your research paper.

What is Empirical Research?

"Empirical research, following the tenets of empiricism, is grounded in the belief that direct observation of phenomena is an appropriate way to measure reality and generate truth about the world."

Given, L. M. (2008). The SAGE encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (Vols. 1-0). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412963909

In other words, Empirical Research is that which conducts a scientific study to provide evidence for the author's conclusions. While databases don't allow you to effectively limit search results to Empirical Research, often you can tell from the abstract of an article if it includes a study. If you can't tell from the abstract, take a glance at the methods section (empirical research articles should always have a methods section).

See the types of studies that are Observational and Experimental in the Evidence Pyramid below to see what types of studies you might be looking for in the methods section.

Evidence-Based Practice

Different types of studies are considered to have different levels of quality of evidence. The pyramid below shows the general ranking of studies by the quality of evidence they are anticipated to contain.

Adapted from Walden University's Evidence-Based Practice Research: Levels of Evidence Pyramid