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Evaluating Sources: Ray Howard Library

A guide to different methods of evaluating texts so you can decide whether to use them.

Evaluating resources for your assignments

Evaluating resources for your assignments

Your instructor may ask you to evaluate your resources for credibility and bias before you use them. You may also want to be able to tell if you are reading fake news as you browse the Internet.

This guide introduces various methods of evaluating resources to decide whether they are worth using. Explore these approaches and choose elements that work for you. Some of these methods challenge traditional notions of bias and credibility, so consider asking yourself what credibility means to you. 

On this learning guide, you will find the following methods:

Authority 

Information resources reflect their creator's expertise and credibility and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used.  Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority.  It is contextual in that your information need may help to determine the level of authority required. 

Using this concept means you have to identify the different types of authority and why the author considers themselves credible, as well as why their community considers them credible. An author can be a person, journalist, scholar, organization, website. Author is different from authority, which is the quality that gives an author trustworthiness. 

Types of authority: 

  • Subject expertise
  • Society standing
  • Life Experience

Trustworthiness depends on:

  • Where did the information come from?
  • Who was it created for? 
  • How did they want you to use it?
  • What do you need it for?

stop, investigate the source, find better coverage, trace claims, quotes, and media to original context

SIFT (The Four Moves)

A short list of four things to do or moves that may help you sort fact from fiction. All four moves are meant to help you reconstruct the context you need to read your text. The moves are:

1. stop,

2. investigate the source,

3. find better coverage,

4. trace claims, quotes, and media to the original context. 

Lateral Reading

Related to SIFT, lateral reading is the third move of SIFT.  You are meant to leave the website you are evaluating to read elsewhere and check up on the content in the original website. Three questions form the core of lateral reading:

  1. Who is behind the information?
  2. What is the evidence? 
  3. What do other sources say? 

currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose

"CRAAP" by Ane Landoy, Daniela Popa, Angela RepanoviciCollaboration in Designing a Pedagogical Approachin Information Literacy is licensed under CC BY 4.0

The CRAAP Test

Sometimes also called the CRAP Test, use a checklist to read to your text and decide whether it is credible. CRAAP is an acronym for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. When you read, look for

  1. currency (whether the text is up-to-date),
  2. relevance,
  3. authority (does the author have the credentialed expertise to speak),
  4. accuracy (are the data correct), and
  5. purpose (why does the author want you to read their text?). 

A variation of the CRAAP test is adapted from Palmquist, Mike. The Bedford Researcher. 6th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2018. Print.

 

Evaluate Relevance:

Does the source provide information you can use in your research? Can the source answer your research question directly?

Evaluate Evidence:

Is there enough evidence? Is the evidence the right kind? Is the evidence presented fairly? Are sources of evidence clearly identified?

Evaluate the author:

What are the authors credentials and experiences? Is the author knowledgeable? What are the author’s biases?

Evaluate the publisher:

What is the purpose and reputation of the publisher? How do the publisher’s bias affect the information, ideas and arguments?

Evaluate timelines:

Does the publication date affect the quality of evidence?

Evaluate comprehensiveness:

Does source complete and balanced evidence?

Evaluate genre:

What type of document/media is the source? How does that affect the information of the source?

methodology

Sandstrom, A.-M. (2018, April 19). 8 ways to determine the credibility of research reports [Blog  post]. Retrieved from European Association for International Education website: https://www.eaie.org/blog/8-ways-determine-credibility-research-reports.html

Evaluating research articles

Evaluating evidence-based research articles in scholarly journals requires deep knowledge of the discipline, which you might not acquire until you are deeper into your education. These guiding questions can help you evaluate a research report, even if you aren't an expert in the field. Questions include:

  1. Why was the study undertaken? 
  2. Who conducted the study? 
  3. Who funded the research? 
  4. How was the data collected? Is the sample size and response rate sufficient? 
  5. Does the research make use of secondary data? 
  6. Does the research measure what it claims to measure? 
  7. Can the findings be generalized to my situation, institution or country?

Guide Outcomes

After reading this guide, you will be able to:

  • describe various methods of evaluation of texts for credibility

  • choose a method or parts of methods of evaluation that work for you on your particular project

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