Evaluating Information

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Evaluating Information

  1. 1. Evaluating Information
  2. 2. We’ve said that library resources can help you find higher quality information in less time. But what exactly is it that makes a piece of information high quality anyway?
  3. 3. We don’t mean to say that you can’t find any trustworthy information using Google or another search engine. (Of course you can.) The point is you need to carefully evaluate your sources before using or trusting them.
  4. 4. A handy way to remember the major criteria for evaluating information is to always apply the “CRAAP Test.” What does that mean?
  5. 5. The five key criteria for evaluating information are Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose (CRAAP). Currency Relevance Authority PurposeAccuracy Let’s take a look at the specific questions you should be asking yourself as you evaluate a source and put it to the CRAAP test.
  6. 6. Currency: The timeliness of the information • When was the information published or posted? • Has it been revised or updated? • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well? (Topics in medicine or technology, for example, change very quickly.)
  7. 7. Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs • Does the information relate to your topic or help answer your question? • Who is the intended audience? • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  8. 8. Authority: The source of the information • Who is the author and is he or she qualified to write on the topic? • Is there an organization that publishes, sponsors or is otherwise responsible for the content? • What can you learn from the URL? (.edu and .gov are usually better; .com and .org could be created by anyone.)
  9. 9. Accuracy: The reliability and correctness of the content • Is the information supported by evidence? • Can you verify the claims in another source or from personal knowledge? • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
  10. 10. Purpose: The reason the information exists • What is the main goal of the information? To inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade? • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda (ie. tricking you into one point of view)? • Can you identify any political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
  11. 11. Every website is different, so there aren’t clearly defined places where you’ll always look for these criteria. Instead, you need to bring a critical eye to every source and hunt around until you find what you need. Let’s look at some examples.
  12. 12. Let’s say we come across this source online. One of the first things to check is when the information was published or updated. Currency
  13. 13. Here we can find the publication date right near the top. This article is from 2015, so it should definitely pass the currency test! Currency
  14. 14. But what about this example? It doesn’t seem to have a publication date anywhere. Currency
  15. 15. If you don’t see a date near the top, try the very bottom. Currency In this case, we have to decide if this is fine for our project or a bit older than we want to use.
  16. 16. If we need information on dinosaurs for a science class, this kids site wouldn’t be appropriate. Relevance
  17. 17. And neither would this one, although in this case it’s because the source is too advanced, and certainly too narrowly focused, for our needs. Relevance
  18. 18. This site looks to be the right level for our needs, so it passes the relevance test, and it also gets into the next criterion: authority. Relevance
  19. 19. Authority Here we immediately see the organization responsible for the site’s content, and in this case it is a very trustworthy one.
  20. 20. Authority If you aren’t familiar with an organization, Google it to learn more and see if it’s trustworthy.
  21. 21. Sometimes it won’t be. In a well-known example, the website MartinLutherKing.org looks at first glance like it might be a good resource. Authority
  22. 22. But for it to pass the authority test, we need to figure out who is responsible for the content. Authority
  23. 23. There is no author listed, but at the very bottom there’s the name of the sponsoring organization. Let’s see what we find when we Google it. Authority
  24. 24. Now we know MartinLutherKing.org will have an extreme, hateful bias even though this may not be clear at first glance. You should apply this same principle to other situations, like a major drug or food company sponsoring a health study or food-related website.
  25. 25. Now let’s say we’re researching study habits. Does this site pass the authority test?
  26. 26. Authority First we should see what we can learn about the author, and we find a bio below the article. He certainly looks qualified to write about this topic!
  27. 27. But it’s always a good idea to try to cross-reference with another site, since anyone could create a website and pretend to be something (or someone) they’re not. Authority
  28. 28. Authority It’s a good idea to also check the authority of the website itself, and you can usually find an “About” page either in the top menu, at the very bottom, or sometimes in a sidebar. In this case it’s hidden on the bottom.
  29. 29. And what we find here only clinches what we already figured: this is a very trustworthy website that passes the authority test.
  30. 30. Authority Now let’s check the authority of a second site on study habits. There’s no author listed at the top, so let’s check the bottom.
  31. 31. There’s a name but absolutely no real info here, so now I’m very skeptical. This could even be a fake person! Authority
  32. 32. Accuracy Also be sure to look for clues such as frequent misspellings, bad grammar, and awkward usage that indicate a low-quality source. This site also has problems with accuracy, in particular a number of claims made without any sort of evidence or sources cited. No sources given anywhere on the site
  33. 33. This site also demonstrates the next criterion: purpose. Here it turns out the motivation for the site is to sell an ebook, which is linked to frequently. Purpose Takes you to the sales page for an ebook of questionable authority
  34. 34. The presence of ads or items for sale doesn’t automatically disqualify a source, but it is something you should weigh carefully against the other criteria. Purpose The first site, on the other hand, was designed to inform readers, not manipulate or sell to them.
  35. 35. The sites you come across will rarely be 100% good or 100% bad. They may have some high-quality aspects and others that undermine their credibility. It is up to you to decide if a particular source passes the CRAAP test for your needs.
  36. 36. Be sure to look at your assignment or ask your instructor how many web sources (ie. not found in a library database) you can use, if any. The CRAAP test is most crucial for evaluating sites found on the open web but several of the criteria are very important for library sources as well.
  37. 37. Currency For example, if we are researching online privacy, a topic that changes fast, ten years is a very long time so this ebook found in LibSearch is likely too old to use. But for some other topics this year might be perfectly fine to pass the currency test.
  38. 38. Relevance And this journal article looks very authoritative and current, but it does not pass the relevance test: it is far too specific and technically advanced for our needs. (Unless we are in an upper-level computer networking course.)
  39. 39. Authority For another example, if your instructor told you to consult a scholarly source, this news article would not pass the authority test, since it is a popular source written by a journalist for a general audience.
  40. 40. Next Steps: Look over the resources in the “further activities” section to the right and take the Quiz below it. Also, please leave any comments or questions you have below this presentation.
  41. 41. Credits Slides 26-30 adapted from “Evaluating Sources.” Georgia Southwestern State University. http://www.slideshare.net/goodset2/evaluating-sources-27544171 CRAAP test adapted from California State University, Chico’s “Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test” 'http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf Key Takeaway: It’s important to evaluate the information you come across, and a good way to do it is to always apply the “CRAAP Test.” This means to evaluate the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose of each source you encounter. These criteria are important for both websites found through search engines and sources found in library databases.

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