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Source Evaluation Strategies

Start here to find the evaluation strategy that works for you!

Introduction

Study group with laptopsIt's more important than ever to evaluate the information we encounter online, from our social media spaces to peer reviewed journals. This page includes a number of carefully curated evaluation systems and techniques that you may find useful. At Albertsons Library, we rely on Lateral Reading in our library Research and Critical Inquiry Microcourse, but you may find that another system works best for you.

Lateral Reading - Civic Online Reasoning

 

Practice “lateral reading,” a strategy used by professional fact-checkers to investigate the reliability of online sources. Rather than going through a website to determine whether it's credible, open up a separate tab and investigate publisher, author, images, and any cited information to get a clearer picture of where the information is coming from. Learn more with this Evaluating Online Sources through Lateral Reading Handout developed by Robert Detmering, Amber Willenborg, and Terri Holtze for University of Louisville Libraries.

There's also extensive and well researched curriculum, Civic Online Reasoning, developed by the Stanford History and Education Group.

Wineburg, S., and McGrew,S. Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More when Evaluating Digital Information. Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1, Oct. 9, 2017.

SIFT

        STOP - investigate - find - trace

These 4 moves developed by Mike Caulfield are related to Lateral Reading strategies:

STOP - Do you know this website or the source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the site? If not, go to the next move.

INVESTIGATE the source - you want to know what you’re reading before you read it.

FIND better coverage - When you care about the claim the article is making, ignore the source itself, and look for trusted reporting or analysis on the claim.

TRACE claims, quotes, and media back to the original context - Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context. Trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in it’s original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.

CRAAP Test

A word of caution: While the CRAAP test has been in use by teachers and libraries for at least a decade, new pedagogies like Lateral Reading are being developed that better address the current information landscape. The article Dismantling the Information Framework provides background and rationale for these changes.

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Use the CRAAP test, developed at UCS Chico, to evaluate sources for credibility and suitability for your research. Here's one interpretation of the acronym:

C-Currency: The timeliness of the information for your needs

R-Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs

A-Authority: Who is the author/publisher/sponsor and what are their credentials?

A-Accuracy: The reliability of the content

P-Purpose: The reason the resource exists - opinion, reporting, research, satire

Here's a handy rubric with fuller descriptions and examples:

Adobe PDF icon

CRAAP Test and Rubric - PDF - 709 KB

5W's

Who created the information? Affiliations, qualifications/credentials, reputation, contact info, etc. Who published it? Who paid for it? Does the creator or publisher have a bias or a point-of-view that might affect the information?

What is the evidence? Do the claims make sense? Can claims be fact-checked? Are stories, hearsay, or innuendo used as “proof?” Do the facts given logically lead to the conclusions made?

When was the article published? When was it revised or updated? Is timeliness important for the topic or not?

Where is it published – popular magazine, academic journal, blog, news, website, etc.? If it’s a website, what kind? Newspapers, magazines, and some journals web publish. Was the information edited, reviewed, or refereed? By whom? Where did the author get their information? Are they citing sources? If so, are those sources credible? 

Why was the information created? How is it meant to affect its audience? Why are they telling me this? To inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade, or something else?

Who or what is missing that might change the interpretation or understanding of the information?