As you find sources in the searching stage of your research, you sort through your results to see if they are relevant to your topic. You will also want to evaluate your sources to see if they will support your argument when you actually go to write your paper. As we learned earlier, there are several types of sources. There are clues that can help you quickly evaluate your sources to see if they meet the right standards to be included in your paper.
Knowing how to quickly evaluate articles is one of the most important parts of research and will save you a lot of time once you get it down. The method we'll be using to remember what clues to focus on when you need to evaluate is the CRAAP test. This is an easy acronym to help you decide if a source is crap or not.
CRAAP stands for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.
Note for INFO 1010:
The Module 4 Assignment is all about finding sources and evaluating them. You will need to know how to use the CRAAP test well as an evaluation tool, so you can make judgments as to whether a source will work for your paper topic or not. This can eventually become a natural part of your searching and finding strategy. For the Module 4 assignment, you will be asked to find sources and evaluate them either as part of an in class activity (for the face to face sections) or as part of your submitted assignment. Pay close attention to each of the criteria and what they mean.
Each topic will have its own range of what is current, and while most of them could be around 5 years, it depends completely on the context, discipline, and how you plan to use an article in your paper. You want your sources to represent the most recent research on your topic. For some of the more rapidly changing fields, the newer the better. Technology changes overnight, and the health sciences are constantly being researched. If an article in those fields is more than 5 years old, chances are it's obsolete. Unless you are looking at the change itself, or at the historical differences, etc. So while 5 years is listed as good, it's completely subjective and you must consider more than just the publication date.
Information can be good without being right for your purpose. When evaluating your sources you need to decide if the information is actually going to work for your purposes. Who the article is written for will also make a huge difference. If your assignment is going to be written for an academic audience, you don't want sources written for a general audience. You also don't want to be using sources that were created for children if your audience is college level.
This is important, because you want your information provided by someone who knows what they are talking about, rather than just anyone. In this internet age, publishing is really easy. Anyone can post their opinions as fact on the internet. So knowing the credentials of the author and their affiliations and who is publishing the material is vital. Having their contact information listed is nice, because it means they are open to further communication.
How accurate the information is closely relates to the authority. We hope that if the author has the authority to write on this subject that they are writing good information. But you can tell that from the articles themselves. Are their sources cited? Are the sources good? An article could cite their sources, but if all their cited sources are not authoritative or accurate, then the article wont be accurate either. Source types can also clue you in to possible bias. Are all their arguments and sources only showing one side of the issue? Does the writing appeal to the emotion or does it use fact and logic?
Purpose can also relate to accuracy, because information will be influenced by the intent with which it is written. A study about tobacco not causing cancer sponsored by the tobacco industry could call the accuracy into question. Doing a scan of the article and paying attention to the sources cited as well as other terms used can help you know that the point of view is. Is the author being objective or subjective? Is it pushing their agenda or trying to inform or communicate research results? Is the language neutral or charged?
Usually, you should avoid opinion pieces and ones that are pushing agendas, because the information with be subjective and full of bias. This will affect the accuracy of the information, and even the author or publisher's credibility. However, you might use such a source to illustrate a point or to show a certain point of view.
If you can figure out the purpose of the article and why it was written, this will help you decide right away whether it will be a good source for you to use.