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Start with CRAP

 

You may have heard about the CRAP test for evaluation.  This is a good start to evaluating whether the source is good for your project:

Currency

  • Based on your topic, is it current enough? 
  • Why might the date matter for your topic?
    • A biography of Fidel Castro that still has him alive might not be helpful; Castro’s autobiography would be a great primary source.

Reliability

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is the content primarily opinion?
  • Is the information balanced or biased?
  • Does the author provide citations and references for quotations data?
    • Looking at both sides of an issue (for example, the Palestinians and the Israelis) may be biased writing but is an excellent way to learn what’s left out of the other sides’ account.

Authority

  • Can you determine who the author/creator is?
  • What are their credentials (education, affiliation, experience, etc.)?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
  • Is this publisher/sponsor reputable?
    • It may be helpful to read a first-hand, privately published account, but do check that they were actually there or have knowledge of the topic (one of the great hoaxes, Gay Girl in Damascus, was written by a white man in DC).

Purpose/Point of view

  • Is the author presenting fact, or opinion?
    • An Op-Ed in a newspaper might be a great source for how people thought about the topic when it occurred

Then read laterally

Lateral reading is used mainly for websites with readers looking for confirmation that the author and/or website are real. This resource guide goes in depth, but in short you will be evaluating a source by reading other people's opinions rather than only relying on the website information.

Other considerations

  • Does the source cover your topic in depth, or are there only a few paragraphs? A few paragraphs may be all you need to check a few facts, but don’t pad your Bibliography while relying on only a few sources for information.
  • Is it written in a way that you can easily understand, or is there high-level language and professional terminology?  If you can’t easily understand it, look for another source.  On the other hand…
  • Is it written for a much younger audience?  If so, check with your teacher to see if they’ll accept it as a source or if they want you to use it only as a “reference” source