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Social Work

This guide will help you find information relevant to Social Work topics.

The CRAAP test

WATCH  Evaluating Resources (2:15)
A brief video about using the CRAAP test from Western University Libraries.

Evaluating Sources by Western Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Is my source scholarly?

You might be asked to use scholarly sources for your assignment, but how can you tell what's scholarly or not? This list will help you to identify if the sources you have found are scholarly.


  • Written by researchers, professionals, or experts in the field
  • Author's credentials are listed


  • Advanced reading level
  • Researchers, students, academics, and professionals

Language & Length:

  • Specialized or technical vocabulary
  • Topic is narrowly focused and research-based
  • Long articles: 5+ pages

Review Process:

  • "Peer-reviewed" or "refereed" articles are screened and approved by other researchers and experts in the field


  • Often a specific format: e.g., Abstract, Methodology, Discussion, Summary, Charts, Conclusion
  • Descriptive titles
  • Limited or no advertising

Location of Information:

  • Scientific, medical, and research institutions, libraries
  • In print and online at RDP Library

Citations & Bibliography:

  • Extensive bibliography and citations throughout
  • Sources can be verified


  • Journal of Botany, Journal of Canadian Studies, Journal of Clinical Nursing, Educational & Child Psychology


Prefer to watch videos or like to look at visuals? Take a look at these resources to learn more about scholarly sources:

Tip: When searching for scholarly sources using Google or Google Scholar, you may come across articles available for free online (through sites like ResearchGate,, and PubMed). Since most articles require an institutional subscription (such as accessing articles through RDP Library), are these sites credible?

What does "Peer Reviewed" mean?

Peer review is a process in which an article is screened and evaluated by a panel of experts before it is published. Reviewers will evaluate the article for quality, credibility, and accuracy.

Usually a journal is peer-reviewed when:

  • It is published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society or association.
  • It has a list of reviewers or an editorial board of experts listed on the journal's website.

If you have found your article online in an article database, the database may indicate if an article is peer-reviewed. You can do an Internet search for your journal's name to see if the publisher's site can verify that it is peer-reviewed.

Many databases have an option for limiting to peer-reviewed journals.  Look for options on the advanced search screen such as:

  • Peer reviewed
  • Academic journals
  • Scholarly journals

Note that sometimes more than one of these options can appear; journals can be scholarly without being peer-reviewed.

Peer-reviewed journals do contain information that is itself not peer-reviewed, such as editorials, opinions, or letters. Remember to evaluate your specific article, not just the journal. 

How do I read a scholarly article?

How do I read a scholarly article?

Reading and critiquing scholarly research articles is a skill developed with time and practice. As you read more within your discipline you'll likely discover patterns in the structure of the journal articles.  You'll also get more experienced at differentiating between good and bad articles.

Journal articles, particularly research articles in the sciences and social sciences, tend to follow a very similar structure.  You may see some or all of the following headings:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction or Background
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • References

Do I have to read the whole thing?

Don't feel that you have to read research articles from beginning to end. The best strategy may be to read the abstract and then skip to the conclusions section, in order to get a feel for the main points of the article.

While journal articles in the humanities don't usually follow the structure noted above, you will at a minimum still see an Introduction and a References or Works Cited list.

How can I tell if the article is good?

The following questions may be helpful in determining whether you are reading a good scholarly article:

  • Is the research question clearly stated (in a humanities paper, this will be the thesis statement)? Does it seem significant?
  • Has the new research been framed well within the existing research? In other words, is there evidence of a literature review and does it seem complete?
  • Is the researcher's methodology clearly laid out? Does it seem appropriate for the research problem?
  • Do the researcher's conclusions make sense, given the results reported or the evidence presented? Are there any inconsistencies? Any apparent biases in the data or evidence?
  • Have limitations to the research or argument been identified?
  • Does the References list appear accurate and complete?