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Get Started with Research

3. Evaluate Web Resources

Sometimes, you cannot help but use sources from the open web for an assignment.  If the topic is very new, there may not be much scholarly information published about it yet.  Or, you may need information from a government agency, corporation's website, or other freely available resources. 

When you have to use sources you find through search engines like Google, it becomes very important to evaluate them for quality.  This is where the TRAP Method should be used. 

Getting Started: About the TRAP Method

T.R.A.P. stands for Timeliness, Relevance, Authority, Purpose—TRAP!

You will learn how to use the TRAP method to ask yourself questions in a step-by-step process. This will help you evaluate whether a source of information is good for your assignment.

First, learn about the TRAP method by watching the overview video below and answering the questions.

T stands for timeliness

It helps you  evaluate the "when" of an information source. 

Watch the T is for Timeliness video & answer the questions to learn about timeliness and how to evaluate it for a source.

R stands for Relevance

It helps you remember to evaluate the "how" of an information source. 

Watch the R is for Relevance video & answer the questions to learn about relevance and how to evaluate it for a source.

A stands for Authority

It helps you remember to evaluate the "who" of an information source. 

Watch the A is for Authority video & answer the questions to learn about authority and how to evaluate it for a source.

P stands for Purpose

It helps you remember to evaluate the "why" of an information source. 

Watch the P is for Purpose video & answer the questions to learn about purpose and how to evaluate it for a source.

Stop and Think

 Think of a time when really doing your research and critically evaluate something before making a choice—in your job, in your studies, or in your personal lifehas helped. Maybe you got a raise because you compared your salary to your peers, a better grade because you used the best resources, or the best product because your compared and/or read the reviews.

Which questions do you already ask yourself naturally when you're evaluating a source? Which questions from the TRAP method are new to you?

 Will checking your source's relevance help you get a better grade on this assignment, or an upcoming assignment?

 Is it ever a good idea to use a source of information created by a biased author?

Using the TRAP Method in Your Studies

You can use the TRAP method throughout your studies, in most of your coursework. The concepts of timeliness, relevance, authority, and purpose are important in college-level research, no matter your topic or discipline. This makes the TRAP method a great tool for your college education! 

Some of the questions involved in the TRAP method are more relevant for certain types of information sources. For example, some questions are more relevant for newspaper articles, and others are more relevant for websites.

Librarian Tips

  • Come back every semester when you have a research assignment to re-watch these videos. It will be a quick reminder about how to find good sources.
  • Before you read an entire scholarly source that was written by experts, look for a summary. It will tell you what the source is about and why it was made. Where is the summary? It depends on the source. First, try looking for a section of your source called "abstract", "introduction", or "discussion." If you can't find it, skim through the entire source to find out if it is relevant, and it will help you develop your topic.
  • If you don't know whether a source was created by someone with authority, ask your professor. You can call, send an email, or visit them during office hours.
  • Luckily, when you are looking at a scholarly article, it is easy to figure out its purpose! Remember, if the source says it is peer-reviewed, multiple experts have had a chance to read and correct the information.  You can usually rely on peer review to eliminate bias, and to be an indication of a strictly informative purpose.  
  • Do you want some help going through any of these questions? Ask a Librarian! Send us a live chat, give us a call, or stop by the library's front desk.


Keep going! There's more to this module. Continue to 4. Bringing it All Together...

Last Updated: Oct 4, 2023 9:32 AM