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BHS RESEARCH GUIDE: Evaluating Your Sources

Evaluating Your Sources

Evaluating your sources is an essential step that sometimes gets overlooked.  Here are some reasons why it's important:

  • Did your instructor ask you to use scholarly sources only?  If so, you need to confirm that all your sources are scholarly in nature. 
  • Are any of your sources biased?  For example, the websites of corporations or advocacy groups may not give you the whole truth.  Many newspapers and magazines also exhibit bias in their reporting.  It may be fine to use these sources, as long as you acknowledge their potential bias in your paper.
  • Do all your sources take the same point of view on an issue?  Unless you are writing an argumentative paper, it is important to consider differing viewpoints in your paper.
  • Does the author of a source use an appropriate methodology and draw reasonable conclusions from his or her study?  See if you notice possible red flags with the assumptions, statistics, or conclusions.  You should address these issues in your paper when citing the study.

Opinion vs. Fact


Currency: the timeliness of the information (Score 1-10)

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs (Score 1-10)

  • Does the information relate to your topic or 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)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information (Score 1-10)

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    • examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content (Score 1-10)

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists (Score 1-10)

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10 = best possible) 

45-50 Excellent | 40 - 44 Good | 35 - 39 Average | 30 - 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 - Unacceptable


CRAP Test in Action