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Research Basics Tutorial: Evaluating Sources

Source Quality

What is a 'quality' source?

Why should you be concerned about source quality as you research your topic? In fact, there are several reasons:

  • Faculty will consider the choices you made as they evaluate your work
  • A key skill of the digital age is evaluating information on the basis of credibility
  • Biased, incorrect, or misleading information will quickly diminish the credibility of your writing
  • As a participant in scholarly conversations, you have a responsibility to share only that information that contributes to the continuity of truth and discovery

How will you measure 'quality'? First consideration: What is your purpose?

Even within the sphere of academic writing, the manner in which you make use of sources can vary. Sources can provide:

  • Definitions and background to inform the reader
  • Illustrative examples for clarification of your assertions
  • Real-life examples or case studies to enliven your writing
  • Expert quotes, opinions or the findings of scholarly research
  • Data and statistics to support your assertions or conclusions

For the first three of the above, news sources, such as magazine and newspaper articles, and general books could provide excellent background and detail for more compelling writing.

How can you evaluate sources?

See the checklist below to decide between a good source and a questionable one:

Image: Source checklist for academic writing

Bias can be hard to detect!

  • Psychologists have shown that we naturally tend to accept any information that supports what we already believe, as true, even if the information isn't reliable.
  • The information should be objective, fair, and balanced.
  • The absence of a viewpoint could present a bias.
  • Products and services can be sold...and so can ideas (religious, political, etc.)
  • Be especially careful when the viewpoint isn't apparent.

Evaluating Sources

There a several models available for how to systematically evaluate the sources you use in the course of your research. One of the most popular is the CRAAP Test for evaluating information.




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