Evaluating Resources Using the TRAP Method
When you are evaluating resources to use in an academic assignment, the process is the same as when you are trying to decide critically whether or not to believe any information you're given. You would ask yourself the following kinds of questions: who? what? when? where? how? why?
Use the TRAP (Timeliness, Relevance, Authority, Purpose) Method below to evaluate any information you find for your assignment. The validity of any source will, in part, depend upon your purpose in using it.
To determine the timeliness of a source, ask yourself the following questions about it:
- When was it written and published?
- Is it up-to-date? Has it ever been updated?
- Do you want or need it to be up-to-date for your specific topic? Or, would it better suit your purpose to use something that was published at a different time (like a primary source*)?
- Does your area of study change quickly enough that having current resources is important?
* for more information about what a primary source is, please see our Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources page. (will include link)
To determine the relevance of a source, ask yourself the following questions about it:
- Does the information answer your research question?
- Does the information meet the stated requirements of the assignment?
- Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
- Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?
To determine the authority of a source, ask yourself the following questions about it:
- Who is the author? Has anyone claimed to be the author at all?
- What makes them a good source for information?
- What is their affiliation?
- Are they an expert in the field about which they are writing?
- Can you find a source that cites the author?
- Have they published more than once on their subject? Is their work peer-reviewed?
- Have they cited their source?
To determine the purpose of a source, ask yourself the following questions about it:
- What is it? (book, journal article, blog post, magazine, etc.)
- Why was the document created?
- Does it fill an information need?
- Is the author trying to persuade you to a particular viewpoint?
- Are they trying to sell you something?
- Is their aim strictly educational?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is there an obvious bias?