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Aerospace Engineering

Start Your Research (DIY), Writing Assignments, Technical Writing

Topics, Search, Evaluate

Where to find ideas for topics

  • Class discussions or readings
  • Presentations at relevant conferences
  • Articles in discipline related journals
  • Relevant current events

Why should I start with Background Information?

  • Familiarize yourself with the topic by looking at the "big picture"
  • Find possibilities for a specific area within the topic
  • Identify different views on the topic
  • Identify experts within the topic

 

Where do I find background information?

Gale Virtual Reference Library  Find scholarly encyclopedia entries to gather information about a broad topic.

SJSU Library Catalog Use the Library Catalog - OneSearch to find books with introductory content about your topic.

Wikipedia Find an overview of a topic in Wikipedia. Do NOT use as a resource in your research paper.

Limit or Expand Your Search

  • Place quotes around phrases to keep the words together during your search. For example, "data management system"

  • Add an asterisk to pull in more words (truncation). Enter as many letters as possible before the truncation. Example: system* matches system, systems, systematic, systemize

  • If you get too many results, try adding another keyword (concept).

These sites can help you evaluate the accuracy, reliability, and currency of information in general, and Internet information in particular.

 


CRAAP Test

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.  

Key: An asterisk (*) indicates that criterion is for Web sources only

Currency: The timeliness of the information. 

When was the information published or posted? Has the information been revised or updated? Is the information current or out of date for your topic? 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 using this source for a research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations? What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic? Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail 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 informational 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 biased or free of emotion? Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

What is the purpose of the information? To inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
 

Adapted from The CRAAP Test by Sarah Blakeslee at Chico State's Meriam Library.