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Biology 0190E: Botanical Roots of Modern Medicine

Green Flags

Indicators of quality information include:

  • Scholarly article vs. popular article
    • Scholarly articles are primary accounts of original research, published in scholarly journals (ex. Journal of Experimental Biology). Popular articles (like you might find in Time, or The Atlantic) might discuss research projects, but usually rehash this information from scholarly articles (and may or may not link to the sources).
  • Peer review
    • Peer review (sometimes also referred to as refereed) means that the work was reviewed and evaluated by other experts in the field. Scholarly journal articles are usually peer reviewed.
  • Found in a database. 
    • Databases like Web of Science and Medline (searched via PubMed) only index journals that they deem as trustworthy sources.
  • Websites run by government agencies (.gov), nonprofit organizations, or educational/research institutions (.edu)


Red Flags

Indications that you may want to view your sources more critically include:

  • Author does not appear to be an expert in the field, ambiguous or absent institutional affiliation.
  • Hard to discern who the author is, or who published the information.
  • Poor copyediting, typos.
  • Commercially or politically motivated, or otherwise biased.
  • Not published through any traditional means (not a book or a journal article).

These don't necessarily mean that you can't use a source. Not all information is published in a journal or book. Rather, these signs should alert you to be extra critical and cautious.


(Credit - Meriam Library, California State University, Chico)

The CRAAP Test can be a useful framework to consider the quality of a reference.

  • Currency - When was this published? Is this a field that operates on the bleeding edge, or do older references maintain relevancy?
  • Relevance - Is this relevant to your topic? Who is this written for? 
  • Authority - Can you easily tell who wrote it? Are they affiliated with an institution or organization? Are they knowledgeable about the topic?
  • Accuracy - Are the research methods sound? Is there supporting data? Has it been peer reviewed? 
  • Purpose - Is this research funded or supported by someone who would have ulterior motives or an agenda to push?