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Boilerplate content for research guides: Evaluating Sources boxes

This unpublished guide contains copyable/linkable generic content for other guides.

SCARAB Evaluation

Here is an evaluation rubric from McHenry County College Library, Crystal Lake, IL:

Evaluation Criteria

S.C.A.R.A.B.

Substance

Currency

Authority

Relevance

Accuracy

Bias

SCARAB Source Evaluation Rubric (pdf)

Evaluating Websites

Numerous websites are devoted to controversial topics. Be sure to evaluate all information resources carefully to understand if they reflect a particular point-of-view or "side." Good websites tell you who they are and their mission.

If a website is not a well known organization or educational institution, do some research into their credentials.

Remember when you are on the Internet it is "Buyer Beware"!

More Tips

Generally you are looking for sites that are:

  • Authoritative (written by experts in the field)
  • Well documented (include references/links to scientific or peer-reviewed articles and websites)
  • Current (regularly updated)

Things to look at:

  • Top-level domain (e.g. .edu, .org)
  • Whether the entity makes sense
  • "About," "Mission," "Philosophy" pages -- check them out
  • Info on who owns the site at WhoIs.net
  • Political/ideological bias
  • Details about the website and its authors in Google
  • Whether the organization is trying to influence public policy -- see what SourceWatch has to say about the organization (but double-check their info too!).
  • Who links to it (Google search: link: URL)
  • Site details in Alexa.com (reviews, traffic, links, etc.)

More info? Read Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques & Questions to Ask (UC Berkeley)

The CRAAP Test

How do you know if a source that you find is research paper quality? Try putting it through The CRAAP Method of Evaluating Information, a series of questions developed by librarians at California State University, Chico.

This test is designed to work for all information sources, including websites.

Click here to find the complete CRAAP Test pdf - just one page!

The acronym CRAAP stands for:

Currency: The timeliness of information.

Relevance: The importance of information for your needs.

Authority: The source of the information.

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information content.

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

Scholarly Journals and Evaluating Resources

Scholarly journals review submitted articles before they are published. Many professors require students to use scholarly journal articles as resources when writing research papers. Here are tips on locating scholarly journal articles and evaluating sources.

Evaluating Sources

Questions to ask:

  • Have you used a variety of sources?
    • Compare and contrast the information you find with several authors and and array of sources such as books, Emory dissertations, journal articles, and studies.
    • Comparing and contrasting the information will help you in identifying any bias and enhance the validity and reliability of your research.
  • What are the author's qualifications and affiliation (i.e., where does the author work)?
  • What is the date of the publication? Is the information out-of-date for your topic?
  • Who's published it? Is it a university press -- in which case the material is more likely to be scholarly -- or a well-known publisher? Is it a website? Find information on who owns the site at WhoIs.net

The "Five Criteria," used for evaluating websites, can be used when evaluating information from any source (magazine articles, books, newspaper articles, etc.)

Evaluating Web Sites

Q: How do you know if a website is a reliable source of information?

A: Ask questions.

Put websites to the test by using the UCLA Libraries' Thinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources* page to guide you.

*Created by Esther Grassian at the UCLA Library and used with permission.

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