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ENG 120: Matias Spring 2023

Course guide for ENG 120, Spring 2023, Profressor Matias

How to Evaluate Sources

Source Evaluation Basics

The CRAAP Test from the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico, can be applied to evaluate a variety of sources, most notably, news sources, health information, and other, relevant academic sources. 

The CRAAP Test asks of researchers and sources the following questions: 

  1. Currency: When was the source created/published? Is it outdated?
  2. Relevance: Is the source relevant to your particular topic or needs?
  3. Authority: Who is the creator of the source? Are they a "credible" source of information? Do they possess the credentials, experience, and/or expertise to be making certain claims or arguments? Do they acknowledge their implicit biases? 
  4. Accuracy: Is the content of the source considered reliable, true, and/or correct? Does the logic of the argument make sense? 
  5. Purpose: Why was this source created? Does the information exist for a certain reason? Is it intended to be used in a certain way?

Lateral reading is searching for information about a source while you are reading it; you are checking for currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, and purpose (CRAAP method) by reading what other sites say about your source. This is different from vertical reading where you apply the CRAAP method using only the information the site itself provides you.

The concept of lateral reading originated out of research from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) under Sam Wineburg, the founder and executive director and is used by professional fact checkers!

When reading laterally, you are: 

  • Opening other browser tabs to locate information about the source & its creator;
  • Reading what trusted and reliable sources are saying about the site or claim;
  • Finding 4-5 other sources that discuss the source, its claims, its creator, and/or other aspects relevant to its reliability as a source.

For more information on Lateral Reading, please review the following videos: 

Another method utilized in the critical evaluation of sources is the SIFT Test. Similar to Lateral Reading, the SIFT Method approaches a particular source by conducting outside research on the creator of the source AND other sources that either agree with or dispute the initial source's claims. This particular method of source evaluation relies heavily on contextualizing the source and its various aspects: creator, accuracy/purpose of claims, etc. The SIFT method also works best when utilized in the evaluation of news sources and/or online information & media. 

  1. STOP before you share/take it at face value
  2. INVESTIGATE the source and its creator/claims using other sources
  3. FIND other, reliable sources that either speak to the initial's sources claims OR refute them in a logical way.
  4. TRACE the new sources back to the original source's context.

The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield. All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials with a CC BY 4.0 license. For more information, watch creator Mike Caulfield walk through the SIFT Method step-by-step here.

When evaluating source types, it is essential to consider the following types of biases: 

Confirmation Bias:

This is when you deliberately shape evidence to support your argument/agenda, and ignore information that supports the contrary.

For example: You are writing a paper that argues that vegetarians are better athletes because they avoid red meat. There is information that supports your argument, but there is also a lot of information that supports the opposing argument. Without acknowledging that this other information exists, your work has a confirmation bias.

Implicit Bias:

Implicit bias occurs when someone consciously rejects stereotypes and supports anti-discrimination efforts but also holds negative associations in his/her mind unconsciously. In other words, the work may say one thing, but express another by reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices that otherwise would suggest a prejudicial bias on the behalf of the author. It's important to be able to discern the intentions of the author of any piece of information that you absorb.

What's the difference between a "Peer-Reviewed" source and a "Popular" source? 

Check out the infographic below to find out!

What is Peer Review?

A peer-reviewed article has been reviewed by experts in the particular field before being accepted for publication. To learn more about what it means when something has been "peer-reviewed," check out the video from NCSU libraries posted below: