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Math 200

Evaluate Sources

What questions do we ask ourselves about information, before we decide to use it in our own work, or share it with others?  What criteria or standards will you use to decide if an article, book, website or other information source is trustworthy, credible & relevant to your work?  There are several approaches to evaluating sources.

 

Please watch these two videos about approaches to evaluating sources.

 

When we find information, in order to decide if it is trustworthy, credible & relevant, we need to ask ourselves questions about the information we find.

We are not just consumers of information but producers of information, and we have a social responsibility to ensure the information that we are using, creating and sharing is accurate, credible & relevant.

Below are the questions you might ask yourself about information sources.  The questions below were drawn from several different sources including PROVEN, CRAAP, ACTUP and evaluating using the 5 W.

 

Evaluating Sources
Questions to Ask About the Sources

Clarification/Tips

 

WHO created the source

  • What authority does the author/organization have to present on this topic?
  • What are their credentials? Are they connected to the field they are writing about?
  • Are they affiliated with any specific organization? 

If you are unsure of the credentials of the author, Google them to see what you can find out about them.  

Look for a link such as “About”, “About Us”, or "Who We Are" to find a description and background of the organization, publication or site, including its purpose, history and who are its leaders.

WHAT is the purpose of the source?
  • Is it informing? selling? entertaining? persuading?
  • Does the point of view appear to be objective or does it appear to be strongly biased?
  • Is the language emotional, pointing to a personal connection to the topic?
  • Are any included images appropriate to the topic and clearly labeled or cited?
  • If on a website: What URL does the site use and what does this suggest about the source?
    • edu: college or university (usually reliable, but can range from scholarly research to students’ personal pages)
    • .gov: a government body (usually very reliable, but sometimes may have a political bias)
    • .org: a non-profit organization (may have very good information but may be promoting particular ideas)
    • .com: a commercial enterprise (may be trying to sell or promote a product or service or display advertising, but also can be very credible organizations or publications, e.g. nytimes.com)
    • .net: originally for networking organizations, such as internet service providers, but now often used as an alternative to .com
  • If on a website: Are the ads clearly separated from the information?

WHERE does the information come from?

  • Does the source use evidence to support its claims?
  • Are there any references? If so, are they appropriate to the topic and source?
  • Is there a bibliography? If so, what kinds of sources are being cited?
  • Can the information be verified with another source?
  • Is the source presenting fact or opinion?
  • Does the source contain spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?
WHEN was the source published?
  • Has the information been updated or revised if necessary?
  • Does your topic require very recent information, or will older sources be acceptable or even preferred?
  • If on a website: Is a date given for when the information was posted?
  • If on a website: Are there important links that are now dead or overall are they kept up to date?
WHY is this source useful to you?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level for your needs (i.e. not too simplistic/not too advanced)?
  • Does the information help to answer your research question or develop your argument?
  • Does the source add new information or simply repeat or summarize other perspectives?
BIAS - Can you identify BIAS in the source? If so, how does that impact the usability of the information you have found?
  • Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view?  Can you identify the bias?  How does that affect the way you will use the source?

 

PRIVILEGE - Are there MISSING VOICES from the source?

  • Check the privilege of the author(s). Are they the only folks who might write or publish on this topic? Who is missing in this conversation? Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you found. How are they described? What are the inherent biases?