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Postgraduate Research Information Skills Modules for coursework

Develop research skills during your postgraduate studies that will continue to benefit you throughout your academic and professional career.

Module 4: Evaluation of literature

It is always best practice to use high-quality literature and sources of information and to attribute it correctly in your research. This module will discuss how to evaluate and reference the sources you have located.

In this module we will consider:

  • How to evaluate the literature you find when searching.
  • About plagiarism.
  • About referencing.​​

4.1 Literature Evaluation criteria

So you have now progressed to a point where you have decided your keywords and developed your search statements and you have begun to read through the many and varied articles and chapters found in your search results, but how do you know if they are any good? As you start finding source materials using your keywords and search statements, you will need to evaluate their usefulness to your research.

There are five criteria that can be used to gauge the expertise and reliability of a source. Ask yourself these questions to see if the literature you have found passes the CRAAP test

  • CURRENT
  • RELEVANT
  • AUTHORITATIVE
  • ACCURATE
  • PURPOSE

CRAAP Test

Is the literature Current?
  • When was it published?
  • Are the references current?
  • Is currency important for your topic?
Is the literature Relevant?
  • Does it relate to your topic?
  • Who is the audience?
  • Is it at an appropriate level for your thesis?
Is the literature Authoritative?
  • Who is the author/organisation?
  • Is it edited or peer-reviewed?
Is the literature Accurate?
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Are there references?
  • Are there errors?
What is the literature's Purpose?
  • What’s the purpose of the information (advertising, scholarly work, opinion)?
  • Is there bias?

Some Evaluation tips

Be aware that the quality of information may vary according to the source where the information is published.

Peer-reviewed journals — also known as refereed or scholarly publications — require that the information is reviewed by several experts in the field. Other publications require that the information is reviewed only by an editor. Be wary of publications that do not undergo any review process at all.

Remember that you may need to go to the original publication cited to gain the full perspective and to verify that research conclusions have not been misquoted or misrepresented in the citing source. Using the reference list to locate the original source is particularly important.

Check that the author has written their argument objectively and critically, minimising bias and misrepresentation.

Check for bias in publications authored by corporations or organisations.

Authors and editors of publications should disclose any association that poses a financial conflict of interest. A conflict of interest is a relationship that influences the objectivity, integrity or interpretation of a publication and often relates to financial associations.

4.2 Plagiarism

As a Griffith researcher, you must ensure you avoid the issue of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the act of presenting other people's words, ideas and creations as your own work. Appropriately referencing and acknowledging others' words, ideas and creations in your own work is required by Griffith University and expected by the research community. Plagiarism, whether intentional or unintentional, is unacceptable and viewed as academic misconduct. Plagiarism may take a number of forms, including:

  • Using another author's phrases or expressions without acknowledgment.
  • Copying content from websites, books, articles, newspapers, magazines, plays, movies or speeches without acknowledgment.
  • Copying artwork, photos, graphs, diagrams or music without acknowledgment.
  • Using or developing ideas from another person's work without acknowledgment.
  • Failing to use quotation marks when directly quoting another person's work.
  • Failing to summarise or paraphrase appropriately.
  • Failing to reference appropriately.

Further information is available at Griffith University's academic integrity pages linked below.

To avoid issues of plagiarism, appropriate academic referencing is required to acknowledge all sources that you use in your work. Correct referencing enhances scholarship and ensures other researchers who read your work are able to follow-up topics relevant to their interests.