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Criminal Justice

Charles Seale Hayne Library - supporting your learning

'C.R.A.P.' - a simple tool for evaluating all information and sources of information.

C - Currency: Is the information current? Is it easy to identify how up-to-date the article is? Can you find a 'last updated' date? Out of date information, statistics or evidence will not be of much use!

R - Reliability: Is the content based on evidence? Are the sources of that 'evidence' identified and referenced? Opinion or argument that has no basis in evidence has no value! Even if evidence is cited, you should be able to also evaluate that evidence for yourself. Does the journal operate peer-review on all submissions or only for main articles?

A - Authority: Is there evidence that the author (or organization) is an expert in the field being written about? You should be wary of authors who do not tell you anything about who they are/where they work or who appear to be 'experts' in areas other than the subject of the article.

P - Purpose/Point of View: What is the purpose of the information or website? Are there adverts that might indicate commercial bias? Is the owner of the website known for political or subject bias? What does the website extension tell you:- eg: AC or EDU indicates an educational institution, but they could be either private or public, commercial or non-commercial!; COM generally indicates a commercial site, and it often has 'selling' as an underpinning ethos; ORG is used to indicate an organization and, although many of these may be not-for-profit, they may exist to promote particular points of view.

It's up to you, but if you cannot positively respond to all of the above areas you should treat the information with caution.

Using the internet

Using the internet as a research tool the internet should be approached with caution. It should be a supplement to your academic research and not be a replacement for it. You also need to understand that your search engine changes the order of results delivered according to what it knows about the user!

In addition to University-provided sources, Google Scholar can be used to try and obtain full text of articles, but do go through Find Databases (letter G) link in Primo to link to some (not all) subscribed content.

When Internet searching:

  • You can only search what is sometimes called the 'surface web'. Normally, you cannot reach many academic articles which are usually held in subscription only databases, the sort your library purchases, so you may miss a lot of useful information.
  • There is no 'editorial' or 'quality' function – you simply find things. What is found could be biased, out of date or often just plain wrong - so 'CRAP' it carefully!
  • An internet search may bring you the largest number of results – but they are often irrelevant or poor quality. Quantity is no substitute for quality.
This is true of all search engines. Different search engines will search different parts of the web. Although there will be overlaps they will all unearth some different results.


"Google is Not the Answer!" Cartoon © 2004 Michael P. May. Used with permission. 


Should you be referencing Wikipedia in your academic assignments?

Wikipedia articles might be used as a starting point for research but your assignment should never be based on information from Wikipedia without first checking other sources. Failure to do this caused considerable embarrassment for the Leveson Enquiry. Leveson 'prank'.

Even the people at Wikipedia have concerns about students using Wikipedia for academic research. Read what they have to say here: Students and Wikipedia

The Google filter

Are you stuck in a filter bubble? Watch this thought provoking film from Eli Pariser about the unintended consequences of web companies personalising our web searching.