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Law & Justice Research Guide

Sources, Sources, Sources!

Evaluating Sources is as Easy as ABCD (Author, Bias, Content, and Date):

Use the ABCD criteria questions to evaluate your sources.

  • Author: Identify the authors of the source. Are the authors experts and qualified to write on the topic? What are their credentials? Are they affiliated with any organizations or a university? Additionally, consider the publisher or source to make sure the information provided can be considered reputable in regards to your information need.
  • Bias: Identify any bias in the information. Does the information presented cover all sides of the topic in a neutral, objective manner? What is the purpose of this information - to inform, teach, persuade, or sell?
  • Content: Evaluate the content of the document. Is the information provided through a superficial overview or is it a detailed analysis? Is the information relevant to the topic or does it deviate too much? Additionally, focus on the accuracy of the content - does the information match your understanding of the topic and can you verify the claims in other sources?
  • Date: Consider when the information was published, updated, or revised. Has the information become outdated? Additionally, consider the date of the reference list provided - are those sources too old or irrelevant with regard to your chosen topic? 

Evaluating Information: Is it C.R.A.A.P. (Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose)?

The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Not all criteria apply equally to all articles but will give you confidence that your sources meet the expectations of your assignment. Feel free to save/print this for personal use.

Evaluating Information: Using the C.R.A.P. (Currency, Relevancy, Authority, and Purpose) Test to Evaluate Websites

The C.R.A.P. Test can be used specifically to evaluate information resources, specifically sources found online. View the video below to learn how you can apply the C.R.A.P. test to evaluate websites

Academic Sources
Non-Academic Sources
  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers, and/or other experts in a field of study.
  • Use scholarly or technical language.
  • Include a full bibliography or cite their sources in the article.
  • Often go through the peer-reviewed process - wherein scholars in the same field review the research and findings for accuracy before the article is published. 
  • Are written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience; may sometimes be written by experts.
  • Written in a language that is easy to understand by the general public and don't assume the audience has prior knowledge of a subject area.
  • Rarely have a bibliography; are instead fact-checked through the editorial process of the publication they appear in.
You are analyzing the historical context of the Salem Witch Trials. You find this article on the JSTOR Daily website. Is this an academic source?

You are analyzing the historical context of the Salem Witch Trials. You find this article on the History Channel website. Is this an academic source?

Primary Sources
Secondary Sources
Defined as: Original evidence/research or first hand accounts documenting an event during the time that event took place. Are often produced later by eyewitnesses or participants Defined as: Sources that interpret and analyze primary sources. Are written by scholars or observers who are at least one step removed from what they are describing, analyzing, and/or interpreting. 
Used as: Material that gets you as close as possible to the event or topic you are researching; you often have to analyze this material yourself.  Used as: Material that reports on the content of a primary source when you are unable to find or retrieve the original source of information on a topic. 
Standard examples: autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, letters, speeches, newspapers, laws, court documents, interviews, original research/data, etc.  Standard examples:  textbooks, encyclopedias, essays, reviews, magazine or journal articles which analyze events or ideas, books which provide a summary of events or synthesize information from many primary sources, etc.
Primary Sources and the Power of Context

 The concept of what makes a source "primary" in academic research depends on the research question at hand.

  • The classification of a source as primary or secondary can change depending on the research question at hand, the discipline, the interplay with secondary sources, and is subject to the different interpretive processes researchers bring to their projects.
  • If you are ever in doubt on whether your source can be considered a primary or secondary source, please feel free to ask a librarian.

Your research is analyzing the historical context of the Salem Witch Trials and you are looking for primary sources relating to this topic. You have found a source on Gale Primary Sources, a database that searches through primary documents. The source is titled The Historical Letters on the First Charter of Massachusetts Government and was written by Abel Cushing in 1839. As a resident of the state, Cushing's book focuses on the history of the Massachusetts government and he has written a very detailed and cited section about the Salem Witch Trials. Would you consider this a primary source for your research?

Primary Sources Outside of CWU Libraries

When it comes to locating primary sources, you may have to leave OneSearch and the CWU Libraries website and go to other archival organizations or government websites to find primary sources since many of them have been digitized and put into online collections. Remember to utilize your evaluation materials for credibility when exploring online sources!

What is OneSearch?

OneSearch is a single search interface that allows patrons to simultaneously search several article databases, catalogs, and other data sources for books, journal articles, videos, scores, maps, and more! This catalog is shared by members of the Orbis Cascade Alliance (Summit), a consortium of 37 academic libraries across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. OneSearch contains 8.8 million titles and over 26 million resources.

What can it do?

OneSearch offers our users major advantages, such as:

  • Unifying book and journal searches
  • Streamlining Summit and Interlibrary Loan functions within the system
  • Access to millions of articles and reports that were previously unavailable

How to use OneSearch 

Watch the videos below to learn how to conduct searches in OneSearch or learn all there is to know about how to conduct effective searches in CWU's OneSearch Research Guide. If you would like further research assistance, you are also welcomed to schedule an appointment or drop in to meet with a reference librarian. On the left side of this page you'll find the contact information for your Law & Justice liaison librarian, Bridgette, though you are welcome to work with any librarian you prefer.

Course Specific Resources

"484563651" by verkeorg is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For most of the twentieth century, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was the principal defender of the rights that citizens can assert against their government. Its primary aims have been the defense of the freedoms of speech and press, the separation of church and state, the free exercise of religion, due process of law, equal protection of the law, and the privacy rights of all citizens. This important collection of papers spans the majority of the twentieth century, from 1912 to 1990. Scholars and students in twentieth-century American social history and politics will find this archive of special interest because of its focus on civil rights, civil liberties, race, gender, and issues relating to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This collection documents American History from the earliest settlers to the mid-twentieth century. It includes over 60,000 primary source documents split across two modules, including correspondence, diaries, government documents, business records, books, pamphlets, newspapers, broadsides, photographs, artwork and maps. Module 1 Settlement, Commerce, Revolution and Reform: 1493-1859 and Module 2 Civil War, Reconstruction and the Modern Era: 1860-1945.

Primary sources from African Americans actively involved in the movement to end slavery in the United States between 1830 and 1865. The content includes letters, speeches, editorials, articles, sermons, and essays from libraries and archives in England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and the United States.

This collection makes available all 1,450 volumes of the CO 5 series from The National Archives, UK, covering the period 1606 to 1822. CO 5 consists of the original correspondence between the British government and the governments of the American colonies, making it a uniquely rich resource for all historians of the period. **Stellingwerf gift purchase

CQ Researcher is often the first source that librarians recommend when researchers are seeking original, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues in the news. Founded in 1923 as Editorial Research ReportsCQ Researcher is noted for its award-winning in-depth, unbiased coverage of health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology and the economy. 

Gale Primary Sources searches within all of the Gale primary document collections to which CWU has access, including the Archives of Sexuality & Gender, Indigenous Peoples of North America, and American Civil Liberties Union Papers.

Provides full-text access to an extensive collection of modern and historical legal periodicals and monographs including documents on international and foreign jurisdiction, U.S. treaties, U.S Supreme Court, U.S. Attorney General, and more. The format is image-based, presenting the exact page image and complete contents of the original materials.

These research guides provide a starting point for researching legal topics and recommend relevant materials in the Law Library's collections and online. The Law Library creates research guides that range from animal and landlord-tenant law to instructions for compiling a federal legislative history. Established by Congress in 1832, the Law Library has a collection of over 2.9 million volumes spanning all systems and periods of law and covering all the nations of the world. Please note that although research guides are selective, inclusion of a site or resource does not constitute endorsement by the Law Library of Congress. 

Legal Collection contains full text for more than 250 of the world's most respected, scholarly law journals. Legal Collection is an authoritative source for information on current issues, studies, thoughts and trends of the legal world.

  • The U.S National Archives: America's Historical Documents
    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that  they are kept by NARA forever. Here is a sample of these records, from the most celebrated milestones to little-known surprises .
  • Nexis Uni

Nexis Uni™ features more than 15,000 news, business and legal sources from LexisNexis—including U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1790—with an intuitive interface that offers quick discovery across all content types, personalization features such as Alerts and saved searches and a collaborative workspace with shared folders and annotated documents.

Access to historical newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and more! Be sure to select the "More" dropdown menu above the search bar and select "Historical Newspapers".

Provides access to millions of primary source, cross-searchable, full-text/full-image documents on the most widely studied topics in 19th and 20th-century American history. The vast majority of the content in History Vault is not available elsewhere. The content in History Vault is perfect for researchers in history, African American studies, women’s studies, political science, social sciences, sociology, and international studies.

The NAACP Papers collection consists of 6 modules which contain internal memos, legal briefings, and direct action summaries from national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country. The documents range from 1909- 1972. The NAACP Papers document the realities of segregation in the early 20th century to the triumphs of the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and beyond. 

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