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Albert S. Cook Library

Theatre Arts

Listing of resources selected for research in theatre arts.

CRAAP Method

Sometimes librarians use an impolite acronym to summarize how they evaluate sources. The words forming the acronym suggest a set of critical thinking skills that can be applied in many contexts, but work best with academic or academic-adjacent sources. It was written to respond to secondary sources, but with adjustment these questions can be used with primary sources too. The CRAAP test was developed by Sarah Blakeslee and a team of librarians at California State University, Chico (2004). The infographic below adapts the test to respond to the needs of performing arts students. 

CRAAP infographic


Academic and Popular Sources

Popular Sources: Articles, books, videos, recordings, blog/ social media posts composed for a wide audience. These are sources that tend to be produced quickly with little to no editorial review process. Popular sources can be a place to start--to get a sense for widespread controversy, for example. If you have determined that a source is reliable, a popular source can be a good place to get current information. They can also be used as primary sources for past events. 

Academic Sources: Articles, books, lectures, editions, and documentaries written by a scholar for other scholars. These sources have gone through a peer-review process before publication, allowing other experts to ask questions, request adjustments to the argument and evidence, and ultimately provide approval before publication. You can judge the value of an academic source by checking the authority of the author (is this person an expert in the subject?), by tracking the use of evidence through footnotes or endnotes (there should be a lot of these with details about where they got their information), and by following the logic of the argument. 

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Source: A source close to the historical event being studied. If you are studying a performance, for example, a primary source might include: an A/V recording of that performance, photographs of rehearsals, published critical reviews of the performance, diary entries, letters, or emails describing the performance, or a memoir by a cast member. Primary-ness is both contextual and on a continuum, with some sources more ideal than others.

Secondary Source: A source providing analysis of the event or phenomena being studied, usually from some distance. Reliable secondary sources examine primary sources and secondary sources to arrive at a narrative that gives new insight to the subject. Good secondary sources on a performance might include a reception analysis (a study of the reviews of the performance), a musical analysis, a biography of the contributors, a comparative study of similarly themed performances.