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UCOR 1100: The Value of Work (WQ 21)

Evaluating Sources

After you find a source to you, you need to decide if you want to use it for your paper. On this page you'll find some useful tips for making a decision on the sources you've found. 

Evaluation Criteria

There are a number of different checklists you can use to aid you in source evaluation. Examples include:

  • CRAAP (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose)
  • STAR (sufficiency, typicality, accuracy, relevance)
  • 5 Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why)

It's a good idea to develop your own criteria for evaluating sources. Consider:

  • Your assignment requirements
  • The original context of your sources (who were they published for, and for what purpose?)
  • The source's relevance to your topic 
  • The source's use of evidence to support claims - does it provide citations or background? Could you reproduce the author's research process?

Title: Evaluating Sources. When you search for information you are going to find lots of it! You’ll need to determine if the information you find is good and appropriate to use. When evaluating, ask these questions to help determine quality sources… 1.	Currency: a.	How timely is the information? b.	When was the information published? c.	When was the website last modified? d.	Does the site have any broken links? 2.	Relevance: a.	Is the information important to your needs? b.	Does it relate to your topic? c.	Who is the audience? d.	Is the information too elementary or too advanced? 3.	Authority: a.	What is the source of the information? b.	What are the author’s credentials? c.	Is the author or organization qualified to write about the topic? d.	The author’s education, work experience, or other publications must be in the field they are writing about. 4.	Accuracy: a.	How reliable, truthful, and correct is the content? b.	Does the author use evidence and references that can be verified?  c.	Is the information factual? 5.	Purpose: a.	For what reason does the information exist? b.	Is the author trying to tell you something, teach or entertain? c.	Is the information written with bias? d.	Biases can be political, religious, cultural or personal. A good way to find a website’s bias is to look for an “about” or “about us” link. It’s usually found at the bottom of a webpage.  Image: a man wearing glasses, sitting as a desk with open books and a laptop computer in front of him.

Evaluation as a Practice

Source evaluation is not a single step in the research process, but an ongoing practice to be applied at every stage. The more you practice, the better informed you will be!

Evaluating Information at Every Stage of the Research Process:

  • Developing a topic: What do you already know about the topic? What do you *think* you know, and how do you know it? What are your biases?
  • Searching for sources: After doing a search, scan the results. Are they relevant to your topic and assignment? Are there gaps? Do your results change significantly when you change your search strategy?
  • Reading sources: What is the context and purpose of the source? Is evidence included to support claims? Where do different sources agree and disagree? 
  • Incorporating sources into your work: Do you have an appropriate variety of sources? Do your sources provide evidence to support your claims? Are you leaving anything out? 

The following posters provide snapshots of theoretical and practical advice for source evaluation from Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers and the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education.

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