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RELS:3976 (149:076) American Indian Environmentalism: Read before you start! First steps.

A resource guide for American Indian Environmentalism.

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Quick Tips - Picking your Topic

Sometimes it is hard to pick a topic for your research, but there are ways to make it easier!

  • Brainstorm back and forth with a friend. Think of at least five possibilities each that fit the assignment parameters.Make it fun, but set a deadline for picking something. 
  • Pick a topic that interests you. You'll be spending time reading and thinking about this topic for a while, so being genuinely curious about your topic will help lead to a successful project.
  • Match your topic to the scope of the assignment. For example, "underage drinking" may be too large of a topic for a 2-page paper. You can narrow your topic by adding other components, such as a time period or location. "Underage drinking on college campuses" or "depression and underage drinking" are more specific.
  • Ask a question. What questions exist that you genuinely want an answer to? This may not be necessary every time, but asking a question can be a helpful way to frame your research. "Has underage drinking increased in the past twenty years?" and "How does the media represent underage drinking?" are two very different approaches to the same general topic.
  • Make sure your topic fits the assignment requirements. Reread the assignment and if you're not sure, check with your instructor.

Tool - Evaulate Information Online with the CRAAP Test

The CRAAP Test

The tabs in this box represent some of the ways you can evaluate the information you come across as you do research online. You have to decide which information to read and trust, and these pointers can help. It's called the CRAAP test to help make it easy to remember:

C - Currency
R - Relevance/Coverage
A - Authority
A - Accuracy
P - Purpose

Be sure to think critically about the information provided:

  • What are the claims being made by the author(s)?
  • What evidence is provided to support those claims?
  • How does the information offered on this site relate to what is provided in other sources, both non-print and print? 
  • How could the information be verified? Is the information specific?
  • How is the information related to your research question?
  • Does the information address the complexities and significant factors of the topic?
  • Do you need to consider another point of view?
  • Is there another way to look at this question?
  • Does all of this make sense?


CURRENCY: The timeliness of the source and the information

  • When was the information posted?

  • When was it last revised?

  • Are links functional and up-to-date?

  • Is there evidence of newly added information or links?

  • Is the information still considered accurate? Has more recent research challenged this information?

  • Don’t exclude articles or information because of the publication date; instead think about the currency and relevance of the arguments presented.


RELEVANCE/COVERAGE: The importance and scope of the information

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

  • Is the topic covered with sufficient depth and breadth? Is the information comprehensive enough for your needs? Are the complexities of your topic adequately addressed?

  • Could you find the same or better information in another source?

  • Is the information relevant to current scholarly discussions on the topic? Do scholars refer to this source?


AUTHORITY: The source of the information

  • Is the author/sponsor clearly identified? Is contact information easy to find?

  • What are the author’s credentials? Is the author knowledgeable in his/her field (based on employment, publications, sponsorship by reputable organizations).

  • Has the author published works in traditional formats? (Look up the authors in Google Scholar.)

  • Is the author affiliated with an organization? Does this organization appear to support or sponsor the page? (Google the authors and/or sponsoring organizations.)

  • What does the sponsoring site (e.g., and domain name (e.g. .com .edu .gov .org .net) reveal about the source of the information, if anything? 

ACCURACY: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from? Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?

  • Are the original sources of information listed?

  • What evidence is presented to support claims made?

  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?*

  • Does the language or tone seem objective and unbiased?

  • Is the information free of spelling, grammar, and typographical errors? 

PURPOSE: The reason the web site exists

  • Is the purpose of the page stated? Is the purpose to: inform? teach? entertain? enlighten? sell? persuade? Are possible biases clearly stated?
  • Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable?
  • Are editorials/opinion pieces clearly labeled? 

Lesson - Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Now that you've searched for your topic, it's important to stop and think about how to select the best resources from what you have found. Google has us trained to expect the best options at the top of the list of results, but you need to put more thought into selecting resources that meet your research needs. You create your own credibility as a researcher and scholar when you show that you know how to critically evaluate information sources.
Try to imagine someone (your instructor) asking you, "Why did you choose that source?" What would your answer be? If you said "It came up at the top of the list of results" would that be a good enough answer?  What if you could answer, "I chose that source because the author is a well-respected journalist who provided insight into this topic by interviewing people affected by..."...well, you get the idea! 
Evaluating Sources for Credibility by North Carolina State University Libraries

Remember to contact a librarian if you need help getting started with your research.