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17.3: Evaluating Sources

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  • Page ID
    5679
  • How can you know if information is appropriate for your research? Take a look at its “craap”! The C.R.A.A.P. method is a way to determine the validity and relevance of a source. C.R.A.A.P. stands for

    • C: Currency. When was the information published?
    • R: Relevance. How relevant to your goals is the information?
    • A: Authority. How well does the author of the information know the information?
    • A: Accuracy. How reliable is the information?
    • P: Purpose. Why does this information exist in this way?

    If the source you’re looking at is fairly current, relevant, and accurate, it’s probably a good source to use. Depending on the aim of your paper, you’ll be looking for an authority and purpose that are unbiased and informative.

    Currency

    Currency is important because information can quickly become obsolete. Supporting your thesis statement with facts that have been superseded by new research or recent events weakens your argument. Of course, not all assignments require the most current information; older materials can provide an historical or comprehensive understanding of your topic.

    How do you know if the timeliness of your information is appropriate?

    • When was the information published or last updated?
    • Have newer articles been published on your topic?
    • Are links or references to other sources up to date? Is your topic in an area that changes rapidly, like technology or popular culture?

    Relevance

    Relevance is important because you are expected to support your ideas with pertinent information. A source detailing Einstein’s marriage and family life would not be germane to his theories in physics.

    How do you know if your source is relevant?

    • Does the information answer your research question?
    • Does the information meet the stated requirements of the assignment?
    • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
    • Does the source add something new to your knowledge of your topic?

    Authority

    Authority is important in judging the credibility of the author’s assertions. In a trial regarding DNA evidence, a jury gives far more authority to what a genetics specialist has to say compared to someone off the street.

    How do you know if an author is an authority on your topic?

    • What are the author’s credentials?
    • Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or prominent organization?
    • Can you find information about the author from reference books or the Internet?
    • Do other books or articles cite the author?

    Accuracy

    Accuracy is important because you want to build your own argument around correct information. If the source you find is written by someone in authority, then chances are good that it will also be accurate. Sometimes, however, an expert in one subject area may write or say something out of their field of knowledge, making that information unreliable or potentially inaccurate. Even experts may perpetuate myths or misconceptions.

    How do you know if your source is accurate?

    • Are there statements you know to be false?
    • Are there errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar?
    • Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published?
    • What citations or references support the author’s claims?
    • What do other people have to say about the topic?

    Purpose

    Purpose is important because books, articles, and Web pages exist to educate, entertain, or sell a product or point of view. Some sources may be frivolous or commercial in nature, providing inadequate, false, or biased information. Other sources are more ambiguous concerning their partiality. Varied points of view can be valid, as long as they are based upon good reasoning and careful use of evidence.

    How do you determine the purpose of your source?

    • Why did the author or publisher make this information available?
    • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
    • Are alternative points of view presented?
    • Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove a claim?
    • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Your research question is “What are the social benefits and liabilities for tribes developing casinos on Indian reservations?”

    1. Select the source that would likely be more current for your topic.
      1. a book published in 1998 about gaming on American Indian lands
      2. Pechanga.net, Indian gaming news on the Internet
    2. Which database would be more likely to point you to articles relevant to your topic?
      1. Sociological Abstracts
      2. Biological Abstracts
    3. Which source would likely be more authoritative on your topic?
      1. a peer-reviewed article published in UNLV Gaming Research & Review
      2. an article published in Sports Illustrated
    4. Which source is more likely to be accurate?
      1. employment statistics from a newsletter published by a grassroots organization opposed to gambling
      2. employment statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor web site
    5. Which source would more likely suit the purpose of your report?
      1. Pechanga.net, Indian gaming news on the Internet
      2. a peer-reviewed article published in UNLV Gaming Research & Review
    Answer
    1. b. Pechanga.net
      (A book published in 1998 will not be as current as most Web sites, although it may provide good background information. Internet resources like Pechanga.net are generally more current than books; a Web site should indicate the date it was last updated.)
    2. a. Sociological Abstracts
      (Sociological Abstracts catalogs journals that focus on social consequences of human behavior, which is more relevant to your topic. Biological Abstracts catalogs journals in the life sciences, which would not likely cover social aspects of your topic.)
    3. a. a peer-reviewed article published in UNLV Gaming Research & Review
      (An article in a peer-reviewed journal is more likely to have been written by an expert and will have been evaluated by other experts before it is published. Writers for Sports Illustrated are not likely to have expertise in social issues surrounding gambling.)
    4. b. employment statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor web site
      (The U.S. government is considered a reliable source for statistics. You can identify a government web site by the “.gov” at the end of the URL. A grassroots organization opposed to gambling may use legitimate statistics but exclude those that don’t support a specific agenda.)
    5. b. a peer-reviewed article published in UNLV Gaming Research & Review
      (Pechanga.net would probably give you a handle on what’s going on in the world of Indian gaming, but it would not provide scholarly research. The title UNLV Gaming Research & Review is a clue that the journal is likely to publish studies related to issues surrounding gaming, and is likely more suitable to your purpose.)
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