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MESAS 370-3|AFS 389-3 Islam in Europe & the U.S. (Main)

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 Is the information out-of-date for your topic?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 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.

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.

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)

Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages

Evaluation of Web documents How to interpret the basics
1. Accuracy of Web Documents
  • Who wrote the page and can you contact him or her?
  • What is the purpose of the document and why was it produced?
  • Is this person qualified to write this document?
Accuracy
  • Make sure author provides e-mail or a contact address/phone number.
  • Know the distinction between author and Webmaster.
2. Authority of Web Documents
  • Who published the document and is it separate from the "Webmaster?"
  • Check the domain of the document, what institution publishes this document?
  • Does the publisher list his or her qualifications?
Authority
  • What credentials are listed for the authors)?
  • Where is the document published? Check URL domain.
3. Objectivity of Web Documents
  • What goals/objectives does this page meet?
  • How detailed is the information?
  • What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
Objectivity
  • Determine if page is a mask for advertising; if so information might be biased.
  • View any Web page as you would an infommercial on television. Ask yourself why was this written and for whom?
4. Currency of Web Documents
  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated'
  • How up-to-date are the links (if any)?
Currency
  • How many dead links are on the page?
  • Are the links current or updated regularly?
  • Is the information on the page outdated?
5. Coverage of the Web Documents
  • Are the links (if any) evaluated and do they complement the documents' theme?
  • Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
  • Is the information presented cited correctly?
Coverage
  • If page requires special software to view the information, how much are you missing if you don't have the software?
  • Is it free or is there a fee, to obtain the information?
  • Is there an option for text only, or frames, or a suggested browser for better viewing?
Putting it all together
  • Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her and . . .
  • Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net), and, . .
  • Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising and it is objective in presenting the information, and . . .
  • Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date, and . . .
  • Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or software requirement, then . . .

    You may have a Web page that could be of value to your research!

FROM: Kapoun, Jim. "Teaching undergrads WEB evaluation: A guide for library instruction." C&RL; News (July/August 1998): 522-523.

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.

Note-taking Software

Evernote is a free note-taking application that can be used via the Web or using a client for computer or mobile devices. You can use it to type notes, capture audio notes, and upload documents to your account; the company allows other software developers to work with it and as a result has many other software packages that will sync notes and documents with Evernote.

Evernote offers premium and business accounts which offer additional features, including the ability to save larger files and create presentations within Evernote.

Need some suggestions on how to organize your Evernote to improve your productivity? This article by Michael Hyatt shows you how to tag things more efficiently.

As part of the Office suite of tools, OneNote has a native Windows client, but also allows you to work online via a Live.com/Outlook.com account.

OneNote is also available on Apple devices and Android devices.