If I use library databases why do I have to evaluate my sources? Aren't they already credible?
Mostly library sources (books and databases) are credible, but you still want to double-check:
What about using websites?
Evaluating them is extra important! The 3 methods for evaluation sources listed on this page are different and yet the same. They all ask some version of the questions below.
More information on evaluating sources is listed below:
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Author - Who wrote the resource? Is the author one person, a team, or a company? Are they qualified to write about the topic? Google them to learn more. A credible company will have a link called "About Us." Look for it to evaluate the company.
Currency - Do you need current information or is historical information okay? Look for the date on an article or the copyright date in a book. On a website, scroll to the bottom to see when it was updated last.
Truth - How accurate and reliable is the information? Can you verify the information with 3 other sources?
Unbiased - There is nothing that is 100% unbiased, but look for resources that impartially represent facts. Look at the funding of a resources. Often funders are looking for a particular outcome as opposed to the actual facts. Follow the money.
Privilege - What might be missing from the research conversation? People of all backgrounds research and write about their findings, but often times people of privilege are published over those who are not.
To learn more about privilege and how it might influence the quality and credibility of information, link to the LibGuide from the Libraries at Rider University below.
Mike Caulfield, Washington State University digital literacy expert, has helpfully condensed key fact-checking strategies into a short list of four moves, or things to do to quickly make a decision about whether or not a source is worthy of your attention. It is referred to as the “SIFT” method:
Investigate the Source
Knowing the expertise and agenda of the person who created the source is crucial to your interpretation of the information provided. Ask yourself:
When investigating a source, fact-checkers read “laterally” across many websites, rather than digging deep (reading “vertically”) into the one source they are evaluating. That is, they don’t spend much time on the source itself, but instead they quickly get off the page and see what others have said about the source. They open up many tabs in their browser, piecing together different bits of information from across the web to get a better picture of the source they’re investigating.
Find Better Coverage
Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media to the Original Context
Butler, Walter, D. Aloha Sargent, and Kelsey Smith. "Information Sources: Bias," Introduction to College Research. OER. Pressbooks. 2020. https://introtocollegeresearch.pressbooks.com/chapter/the-sift-method/
Link to more information about the SIFT Method of evaluating information below:
Does Your Test Pass the C.R.A.A.P. Test ?
When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it . . . but is it good information? You will have to determine that for yourself, and the C.R.A.A.P. Test can help. The C.R.A.A.P Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.
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Currency: The timeliness of the information. • When was the information published or posted? • Has the information been revised or updated? • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well? Are the links functional?
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 (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)? • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use? • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?
Authority: The source of the information. • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations? • Is the author qualified to write on the topic? • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address? Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content. • Where does the information come from? • 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 unbiased and free of emotion? • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists. • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda? • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
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