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ENGL 417 - Written Communication for the Workplace

Evaluate Sources With the Big 5 Criteria

The Big 5 Criteria can help you evaluate your sources for credibility:

  • Currency: Check the publication date and determine whether it is sufficiently current for your topic. 
  • Coverage (relevance): Consider whether the source is relevant to your research and whether it covers the topic adequately for your needs.
  • Authority: Discover the credentials of the authors of the source and determine their level of expertise and knowledge about the subject. 
  • Accuracy: Consider whether the source presents accurate information and whether you can verify that information.
  • Objectivity (purpose):Think about the author's purpose in creating the source and consider how that affects its usefulness to your research.

Evaluate Sources With the CRAAP Test

Another way to evaluate your sources is the CRAAP Test, which means evaluating the following qualities of your sources:

  • Currency
  • Relevance
  • Authority 
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose

This video (2:17) from Western Libraries explains the CRAAP Test. 

Video transcript

Evaluating Sources (Western Libraries) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Evaluate Websites

Evaluating websites follows the same process as for other sources, but finding the information you need to make an assessment can be more challenging with websites. The following guidelines can help you decide if a website is a good choice for a source for your paper. 

  • Currency. A useful site is updated regularly and lets visitors know when content was published on the site. Can you tell when the site was last updated? Can you see when the content you need was added? Does the site show signs of not being maintained (broken links, out-of-date information, etc.)?  
  • Relevance.Think about the target audience for the site. Is it appropriate for you or your paper's audience?
  • Authority. Look for an About Us link or something similar to learn about the site's creator. The more you know about the credentials and mission of a site's creators, as well as their sources of information, the better idea you will have about the site's quality.
  • Accuracy. Does the site present references or links to the sources of information it presents? Can you locate these sources so that you can read and interpret the information yourself?
  • Purpose. Consider the reason why the site was created. Can you detect any bias? Does the site use emotional language? Is the site trying to persuade you about something? 

Identify Political Perspective

News outlets, think tanks, organizations, and individual authors can present information from a particular political perspective. Consider this fact to help determine whether sources are useful for your paper.

                                    

Check a news outlet's website, usually under About Us or Contact Us, for information about their reporters and authors. For example, USAToday has the USA Today Reporter Index, and the LA Times has an Editorial & Newsroom Contacts. Reading a profile or bio for a reporter or looking at other articles by the author may tell you whether whether that person favors a particular viewpoint.

If a particular organization is mentioned in an article, learn more about the organization to identify potential biases. Thinks tanks and other association usually exist for a reason. Searching news articles about the organization can help you determine their political leaning.

Bias is not always bad, but you must be aware of it. Knowing the perspective of a source helps contextualize the information presented.