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Instructional - Research for Writing: Home

Every year early in the fall semester, the Library and the Center for Writing and the Arts (CWA) partner on a workshop for students called Research for Writing. Assistant library director/electronic resources librarian, Duane Carter, and writing center director Dr. Claire Colombo teach this back-to-school workshop on the basics of research for academic writing. They guide students through the processes of:

  • turning a writing prompt into a working thesis;
  • identifying useful search terms for the thesis;
  • using Seeker to navigate online databases; and
  • finding and evaluating resources.

Research to Writing Process


  • First, read the prompt.
  • Second, formulate a working thesis statement.
  • Then, define your search terms.
  • Next, conduct your search and take notes.
  • After that, refine your thesis statement.
  • Finally, outline and draft your argument.



Dr. Claire Colombo

Assistant Professor of Writing, Theology and the Arts

Director of the Center for Writing and Creative Expression

Duane Carter

Assistant Director of the Harrison Library

Serials & Electronic Resources Librarian

Vetting Sources


Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose

When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it . . . but is it good information? You will have to determine that for yourself, and the CRAAP Test can help. The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

Evaluation Criteria

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases? Applying the CRAAP Test University, ChicoCalifornia State University, Chico; Meriam Library 9/17/2010

California State University, Chico; Meriam Library 9/17/2010

Source Types

When searching for information on a topic, it is important to understand the value of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.

Primary sources allow researchers to get as close as possible to original ideas, events, and empirical research as possible. Such sources may include creative works, first-hand or contemporary accounts of events, and the publication of the results of empirical observations or research. We list sources for historical primary documents.


Secondary sources analyze, review, or summarize information in primary resources or other secondary resources. Even sources presenting facts or descriptions about events are secondary unless they are based on direct participation or observation. Moreover, secondary sources often rely on other secondary sources and standard disciplinary methods to reach results, and they provide the principle sources of analysis about primary sources.


Tertiary sources provide overviews of topics by synthesizing information gathered from other resources. Tertiary resources often provide data in a convenient form or provide information with context by which to interpret it.


The distinctions between primary, secondary, and tertiary sources can be ambiguous. An individual document may be a primary source in one context and a secondary source in another. Encyclopedias are typically considered tertiary sources, but a study of how encyclopedias have changed on the Internet would use them as primary sources. Time is a defining element.


Virginia Tech Library Sources