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COMM 110: Kaven: Know Your Sources

Jessica Kaven

Credibility is Crucial

As you begin to answer your research questions, you need to be sure that you are using the best possible sources of information. You will likely find a variety of sources during your research: books, articles, Web documents, interviews, DVDs, and more.  For each and every source you use you want to make sure it passed the CRAAP test: 

Currency - Is the content presented current enough for your project? For your specific research question?

Relevancy - Does it answer your research question?

Authority - Does the author have relevant expertise on the topic about which she is writing?

Accuracy - Is the information provided correct?

Point of View - Is the information biased? Is the author trying to persuade you to believe a certain way?

Scholarly, Substantive and Popular Sources

Types of sources include ScholarlySubstantive, and Popular publications.  It is essential you are able to identify them and understand their differences.

Scholarly 

  • Authors =  scholars/experts
  • Audience =  scholars/experts
  • Purpose = communicate specific information within an academic or professional discipline
  • Characteristics = Scholary language, author credentials, long articlesextensive bibliographies, often peer-reviewed
  • Example: Journals like the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Bottom line: Highly credible. Always a good choice for academic work, but know what you're getting into.

Substantive

  • Authors = scholars or journalists
  • Audience = educated, but non-expert
  • Purpose = communicate information of interest and import + to make a profit
  • Characteristics = accessible language/style, medium length
  • Example: Newspapers (New York Times) and some magazines (National Geographic, The Economist)
  • Bottom line: Credible. Most community college instructors will allow some substantive material. Watch for bias.

Popular

  • Authors = journalists, staff writers, freelance writers, enthusiasts
  • Audience = general
  • Purpose = entertain, sell, inflame
  • Characteristics = easy to read, short articles, highly entertaining, lots of pictures and ads
  • Example: Some magazines (Men's Health, People) and many Web pages
  • Bottom line: not suitable for school, but what fun!

Types of Publications

Characteristics Popular Substantive Scholarly
  popular magazines substantive magazines scholarly journals
Purpose Entertain, sell products, and/or promote a particular viewpoint Provide general information to a wide, interested audience Report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world
Authors Staff writer or journalist 
Name and credentials often not provided
Staff writer, scholars, or free-lance writers

Expert or scholar in the discipline
Name and credentials provided

Audience General readers with a minimal education level Written for an educated, general audience Scholarly readers
Language Written in simple language Written in language for an educated audience Written in the jargon of the scholarly discipline
Format/Graphics Short articles; slick and glossy; contain photographs, illustrations, and drawings to enhance their appeal Longer articles; attractive in appearance; include photographs, illustrations, and graphics to enhance the publication Long articles; grave, serious formats; graphs and charts; seldom glossy pages or pictures
Cite Sources? Rarely cite any sources; original sources can be obscure Occasionally cite sources Cite sources with footnotes and/or bibliographies