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ASC 101 - Brian Mikelbank: Evaluating Sources

More on Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Before using information from a source, you should always critically evaluate it. What does this mean?

It means approaching new information or an unfamiliar source with some skepticism. You know better than to accept everything you're told at face value, so don't treat research any different. How do you know it can be trusted? How do you know if it is an appropriate source to use for your purposes?

While your brain is already evaluating new information everyday, taking some time think about specific questions to ask yourself and how to answer those questions is helpful.

Evaluating Sources For Credibility

Questions to ask when evaluating sources

Before using any information you should critically evaluate the source. Put it through the CRAAP Test:

Adapted from the CRAAP Test by Merriam Library, California State University at Chico


The timeliness of the source.

What is the date of publication? Is there a newer edition?
Science, medicine, and technology demand the most recent information and developments.
History, literature, and other humanities may require older information. 
If you need a historical perspective, then you will obviously use older sources.  
Did your professor set any limits on how old your sources may be?
As a general rule, sources published within the last 5 to 10 years are appropriate.


The uniqueness of the content and its importance for your needs.

Does the source help answer your research question?
What is the depth and breadth of the information presented?
Does the source provide the information you need?
Does it offer sufficient information related to your needs/purpose?
Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Who is the intended audience - general public, professionals in the field, practitioners,?
Is the information unique? 


The author's credibility and expertise on the topic. The publisher's reputation.

Who is the author? Are they an authority in the topic? What kind of reputation do they have?
Is the author a journalist, researcher, professional, politician?
Can you find any information on the author's credentials, education, or expertise?
Who is the publisher? Is it an academic press or popular press?
Is the author or publisher known to have a certain bias or viewpoint?
Is the author affiliated with an organization or institution? What do you know about the organization or institution?



Reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content. 

Where does the information come from? (consider the author and publisher)
Are the original sources of information listed? Are there footnotes? Is there a works cited/reference page?
Can you verify any of the information in independent sources (such as a book), or from your own knowledge? 
Based upon your knowledge of the subject, does the information seem accurate?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed by subject professionals?
Does the language or tone seem biased?
Is the information easy to understand? 
Is it well written? Are there spelling, grammar, or other errors?


The presence of bias or prejudice.  The reason the source exists.

Is the content free of bias?
Are possible biases clearly stated/easily detected?
For periodicals -- Are the advertising and informational content easy to distinguish?
Is it an editorial?
Why was the source published - to inform, teach, educate, enlighten, sell, persuade?
What is the author's intent or message?
Is the purpose of the page clearly stated?  Does the content achieve its intended purpose?


Primary and Secondary Sources