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SOC 406: Sociology of Deviance

Guide created to support course work in SOC 406 Sociology of Deviance

General questions to ask

The CRAAP test is a test to check the objective reliability of information sources across academic disciplines. CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.

Currency - timeliness of the information

  • How old is it?
  • When was the information created, published, or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?

Relevance - the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (e.g. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Does it seem credible?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority - the source of the information

  • Who is the creator and/or author and/or publisher and/or source and/or sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations are given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?

Accuracy -the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Does it have references?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem objective and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
  • Why do you trust it?

Purpose- the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information (e.g. to inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade etc.)?
  • Do the authors and/or sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion and/or propaganda?
  • Is it objective or biased?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

From: Korber, Irene. "LibGuides: Literature Reviews: Evaluating Info" Retrieved 2018-05-21.

Handbooks & Encyclopedias

How do you evaluate encyclopedias and handbooks?

The University Libraries provide access to many specialized encyclopedias in a variety of fields of study. However, you should also be prepared to evaluate each for its scholarly value. Below are some suggestions of what to look for:

  • Who is the publisher?  
    • Typically those published by university presses are considered scholarly (e.g. Oxford, Cambridge, etc...)
    • These commercial publishers typically publish academic content: Blackwell, De Gruyter, Elsevier, Gale, Macmillan, Peter Lang, Routledge, Sage, Springer Publishers, Thomson Reuters
  • Who are the editors of the encyclopedia?  
    • Usually found on the front cover.  
    • What are their credentials?
  • Who are the authors?

Scholarly Articles

How do I know if the article comes from a scholarly journal?

There are a couple of ways to do this.

Let's use the following ASA citation for our example:

Baltzell, E. Digby. 1976. “The Protestant Establishment Revisited.” American Scholar 45:499-519.

1. Searching Ulrich

Searching Ulrich's database (see below) for American Scholar" we discover that this magazine is published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society and is not peer-reviewed or referred.

2. Browsing the journals website

If we search for the website of the journal Deviant Behavior you can explore the Aims and Purpose or the Instructors for Authors to determine if there is a peer-review process. You can also see that the journal is affiliated with the:

  • Mid-South Sociological Association (MSSA)

  • American Sociological Association (ASA)

Identifying types of articles in scholarly journals

It is important to understand that scholarly peer-reviewed journals publish other types of articles. These include:

Often these different types will be included in the article masthead.

Finally, a quick way to determine whether the article is an empirical study is to determine if the article has the general parts of a scholarly article:

title, abstract, literature review, methods and data, results, discussion and conclusion, and references.

These are discussed in this article: How to Read (and Understand) a Social Science Journal Article

Significance of the Journal & Article

Often the question will be asked, "Is this an important journal or article"? This is not always straightforward. There are a couple of ways that this is approached:

Citation Counts: Copy and paste the title of the article in Google Scholar to determine the "number of times it has been cited". This process will generally help you to discover the impact. "However, some things to consider:

  • If the article has recently been published it may not have had time to get cited.
  • If the article is about a unique or a new concept then the number of citations will be relative. 

Disciplinary Databases: each discipline has an important database associated with its publications. The important journals in the disciplines are targeted by these resources and often identified by the academic associations. For a list of library databases for social deviance go to:  

Library Databases for Social Deviance

Journal Impact: Often certain journals in a discipline are cited more often than others. The Journal Citation Reports (see link below to the database) published by the Web of Science are often used to determine a journal's impact.  

Legal Materials

This research guide identifies three types of legal resources: secondary sources, statutory sources, and law reviews. Each of these types of resources has some unique issues that you will need to consider.  

Primary Sources

Court Cases.  WestLaw Campus Research is a powerful search engine for discovering court cases. When you discuss court cases it is important to determine:

  • Is it still good law? Click here to see an explanation about how to determine this using WestLaw Campus Research
  • A court case often discusses multiple issues. It may be that only one of those issues is relevant to your topic.
  • Who are the judges on the case? These are the authors of the court case.   

Statutory Sources. Some other things to consider:

  • Who are the members of the committee that conducted the hearing?  
  • What is the political makeup of the legislature passing the law?
  • If it is a report from a government agency, who was the president at that time?

Law Reviews

Law reviews are a unique type of publication. Some things you need to consider are:

  • Who: often written by law students
  • Purpose: written to assist those who practice law
  • Publisher: often connected to a law school. Some are more prestigious than others.
  • Some law reviews are a specialized practice
  • Court cases, public laws, and regulations. It is important to consider that law reviews are written with this particular sociological lens. 

Organizational Reports

When evaluating reports, consider the following criteria:

  • Authority: Who is the author/source? What are is her/qualifications? Do they have any expertise in the area?
  • Objectivity: Is there bias? How are the claims justified? Is the purpose to promote a product/service?
  • Intended Audience: Who is the source aimed at? Is it general public or scientific community? Suitable for academic rigour?
  • Accuracy: Are the facts/figures, dates cited, and quality of evidence reliable and valid? Is the information cited and references included?
  • Currency: How up-to-date is the information? When was it created?  Is there more recent information available?