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Biology Research

A guide designed to help students in Biology classes find quality research.

Evaluating Information

Some information is valuable and some is worthless. Information comes in lots of packages: books, websites, news programs, journal articles, tweets, etc. You need to determine if the information you have found is what you need to complete your task. To do this you need to focus on the content, context and quality of the information. 

Think critically about:

  • What is the context of this information?
    • Try to figure our the value of the information. Think about the author's purpose, the format, and delivery mode.
  • Is this editorial commentary or more research-based?
    • Recognize if  the information being presented in a well-rounded way that recognizes values and beliefs or if only one side of an issue being expressed.
  • Do I need formal or informal information?
    • Determine if you need information from an expert and what level of expert. 
  • How many different types of sources should be used?
    • Assess information from many various sources. Use a mixture of books, websites, news programs, journal articles, tweets, etc. 

If you have any questions about evaluating information, ask a librarian.

adapted from Bernnard, Deborah, et al. The Information Literacy User's Guide: An Open, Online Textbook. Geneseo, NY: Open SUNY Text, 2014. Web.


You can find many sources on the internet, but sometimes it can be difficult to decide if a site has quality information, or junk information. One way to critically review a website is to use the CRAP Test:

C: Currency: How recently was the website updated or published? Does the site even list any dates?

R: Reliability: Is the content factually-based or based on opinion? Does the site list references and quote sources?

A: Authority: Is an author listed for the site? Is the author credentialed (e.g. RN, MD, etc.)? Are there advertisements on the page? If so, are the ads related to the content of the information on the site (e.g. a critical review of over the counter pain medication with ads for Advil next to it might be suspicious).

P: Purpose or Point of View: Does the site appear to be biased? Is the site trying to sell you something?

If you are unable to answer these questions for a web site, then you should reconsider using it as a source for course assignments and research papers.

Conflicting Information

When doing your research did you find conflicting opinions?  This is the result of divergent problems, meaning there is more then one answer to a problem.  In academic research you will rarely find that everyone agrees with each other.  You need to look at the information you have found and think about what supports your argument, but you can't ignore the information that disagrees with your point either. Use your research to support your opinion and show why you disagree with others. You need to use use both supporting and disagreeing information in a good research project.