Why do I need to evaluate my sources? Because your paper is only as good as your sources.
Let's use a practical example to illustrate this. Pretend you are fixing up an old car, and you'd like to sell it for a small profit. A lot of parts in the car don't work, so you need to buy some to get it up and running. Can you go to the junkyard and just get any old parts? No, not if it you want it to run.
First, you need to have an understanding of how that particular car works, and then you need to be sure that you have good quality parts. You don't want the car to break down right after someone buys it. The car will only be as good as the parts that you put into it.
Writing a paper is like fixing up that car. You can't just use any old source that you find on the Internet or in the library's databases. First, you need to have an understanding of your topic or argument. Then you need to be sure that you pick sources that are not only appropriate to your thesis, but ones that are also of good quality. Like the car, you don't want your paper breaking down halfway through!
Instructors often ask students to find "scholarly," "academic," or "peer reviewed" sources of information for their research. These terms all refer to the same type of information – sources based on in-depth research, and are considered higher in quality and more reliable for your research.
These sources can range from chapters within books or entire books, or journal articles, but all have common characteristics that can help you recognize that type of information:
Evaluating Information – Applying The CRAAP Test
When you search for information, you're going to find lots of it . . . but is it good information? You will have to determine that for yourself, and The CRAAP Test can help. The CRAAP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Of course, different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
Authority: The source of the information.
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
The CRAAP Test was developed by the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico.
From: Lee, S., & Lebowitz, S. (2015, August 26). 20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions. Retrieved August 02, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/cognitive-biases-that-affect-decisions-2015-8
Your boss is the Superintendent of a school district and she has asked you to help with research for a presentation she is making to the School Board, asking them to remove Energy Drinks from vending machines in the district. She needs to back up her argument for why Energy Drinks are not healthy for student consumption with reliable information from credible sources in order to effectively persuade the School Board.
Working together in small groups, skim over the four information sources linked below related to Energy Drinks. Use The CRAAP Test to holistically consider the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose of the articles, and discuss the pros and cons of each one. Which sources would you forward to your boss and why?