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ENGL 165 Arrizon - Climate Change: Evaluating Sources

While fake news is a real concern, it is not a new problem; nor is it just a problem with news (fake research or bad science can be just as dangerous). It has always been important to evaluate the source of information - is it accurate? is it biased? is it trustworthy?

Questions in the CRAAP test were designed to use with websites, but they work just as well to prompt us to think critically about any source of information.

Quick Tip

Put your mouse over the tab that says Evaluating Sources.

You will see a drop down menu. Click on a topic to learn more.

Internet Detective

CRAAP Test

Another way to express the same questions is CRAAP:

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Purpose

but this leaves out objectivity / bias -- and those are very important questions to ask!

Science Loves Peer Review

science valentine to peer review

Evaluate your sources based on P.R.O.V.E.N. criteria:

Purpose

  • Why was this created—to educate, inform, persuade, sell, entertain?
  • Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors state this purpose, or try to disguise it?  
  • Why was this information published in this particular type of source (book, article, website, blog, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience—the general public, students, experts? 

Relevance

  • Does this answer my question(s)?
  • Does it meet my information need?

Objectivity

  •  Do the authors present the information thoroughly and professionally? Do they use strong, emotional, manipulative, or offensive language? 
  • Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors have a particular political, ideological, cultural, or religious point of view? Do they acknowledge this point of view, or try to disguise it? 
  • Does the source present fact or opinion? Is it biased? Does it offer multiple points of view and critique other perspectives respectfully? Does it leave out, or make fun of, important facts or perspectives? 

Is it Verified?

  • Do the authors support their information with factual evidence?
  • Do they cite or link to other sources? Can you verify the credibility of those sources? Can you find the original source of the information?
  • What do experts say about the topic? Can you verify the information in other credible sources?
  • Does the source contradict itself, include false statements, or misrepresent other sources? 

Author's Expertise

  • Is the author / creator identified?
  •  What makes the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the source authorities on the topic? Do they have related education, or personal or professional experience? Are they affiliated with an educational institution or respected organization? Is their expertise acknowledged by other authorities on the topic?
  • Do they provide an important alternative perspective? Do other sources cite this source?
  • Has the source been reviewed by an editor or through peer review? 

Is it New?

  • Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as science, technology, or current events), or could information found in older sources still be useful and valid? 
  • When was the information in the source first published or posted? Are the references/links up to date? 

Peer Review Checks Scientific Accuracy for You

When it comes to scholarly, scientific, or technical information, you might not have the background to be able to judge accuracy just by your own knowledge of the topic. That's where peer review becomes important.

Peer review is the practice of having a panel of experts, perhaps fellow researchers in the same field, evaluate articles before they are published. Authors often ask friends and colleagues to read over and comment informally as they write; but peer review is different. Peer review is done for the journal's editors, and reviewers are (ideally) not people who already know the author. The peer reviewers check whether any scientific experiments were conducted using proper scientific methods, whether any statistical analysis was accurate, and if conclusions are valid. Also ideally, reviews are objective and not based on personal opinion.

While it's possible to "game" the peer review system, in general if an article was peer reviewed, you can trust that it is accurate.

Be warned: not all academic or scholarly journals are peer reviewed. If it was, often the article will list "peer reviewed" on the first or last page.