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Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE)

Resources for research in IMSE.

Critical Thinking

Not all information is created equal

Searching and locating information sources is only one part of the research process. An equally important part is being able to tell if the sources you've located are trustworthy, appropriate, and authoritative.

Evaluating Sources

Evaluate sources with the CRAP test

Use critical thinking skills to decide what you trust.

Remember: source evaluation is along a sliding scale.* While there are some sources that a majority will agree are "good" or "bad" most information falls somewhere in between these two extremes. Often your assignment or the question you are trying to answer will help you determine what "good" and "bad" sources are.

How Much You Can Trust a Bearded Man?
*A silly example of a sliding scale, The Trustworthiness of Beards by Matt McInerney. Click to embiggen.

You can use the CRAP test to help you decide on if the information source will work for your need.


  • How current is the information?
    • When was it created, published, or updated?
  • How old are the references (citations)?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?


  • What kind of information is it?
    • Is it a primary or secondary source? Popular or scholarly?
  • Is the content balanced or biased?
  • Are there any references or citations?
  • Was it peer reviewed?


  • Who wrote or created it? (persons or organization)
  • What are their credentials?
    • education, affiliation/employer, experience, etc.
  • Who is the publisher/sponsor/host?
    • Are they reputable?
  • Popular or scholarly?
    • Who was it written for?

Purpose/Point of View

  • What's the purpose? Is it informative or is it...
    • trying to pursuade you?
    • trying to sell something?
    • biased (arguing only one side)?
    • entertainment?

Scholarly articles are typically published in peer-reviewed journals, contain extensive bibliographies, clearly indicate the author and their credentials, and are written at a level intended for other experts in the field.

Popular articles typically have eye-catching graphics, are written for a layperson, lack indications of the author's expertise, and do not contain an extensive bibliography.

The following sites have more information regarding the differences between scholarly and popular sources of information:

Primary: Eye-witness account - i.e. results are reported for the first time by the authors/researchers.

Types: research articles, conference papers, lab notebooks, proceedings, technical reports, theses, and studies.

Secondary: A second-hand report - i.e. results are summarized, interpreted, or commented upon by others who were not witnesses or participants.

Types: review articles, encyclopedias, magazine articles and text-books.

Warning signs that you are reading a secondary source:

  • Results are summarized with little detail.
  • Researchers, labs or groups are referred to by name.
  • Results are displayed in eye-catching graphics or info-graphics.
  • Results are discussed in synthesis with other experiments.

Reused under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license from NCSU Libraries


Adapted from the original CRAP test.

Catherine Hadler/

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