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Prof. Rubenstein - Eng. 101 - SPRING 2022 CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Resources - Criteria

This is perhaps the major criterion used in evaluating information. Who wrote this? When we look for information with some type of critical value, we want to know the basis of the authority with which the author speaks. Here are some possible filters:

  • Is the author well-known and well-regarded?
  • If you do not know, consider . . 
    • REVIEWS  - Is the author mentioned in a positive fashion by another?
    • LINKED / FOOTNOTES - you found or linked to the author’s document from another document you trust;
    • BYLINE / BIOGRPAHICAL CREDENTIALS - including the author's position, institutional affiliation and address.

The publishing body also helps evaluate any kind of document you may be reading. Is it self-published or did an organization invest money to print it for the public to read?

 

Ask the following questions to assess the "publisher":

  • For Books/Journals, does it contain a Publisher City and Business Name, Copyright, and Date?
     
  • For online sources is the name of any organization given on the document you are reading?
     
    • Is this organization recognized in the field?
    • Is this organization suitable to address the topic at hand?
       
  • Was the document prepared as part of the author’s professional duties (and, by extension, within his/her area of expertise)?
     
  • Does it reach an even higher standard of scholarly (peer reviewed)?

Currency refers to the timeliness of information. . . . Date of Publication - How important for your issue?

Apply the following criteria to ascertain currency:

  • The document includes the date(s) at which the information was gathered (e.g., US Census data).
     
  • The document refers to clear dates  (e.g., "Based on 2010 US Census data.").
     
  • Where there is a need to add data or update it on a constant basis, the document includes information on the regularity of updates. (e.g. 2010 was the last time this data was collected)
     
  • The document includes a publication date or a "last updated" date.
     
  • The document includes a date of copyright.


Also consider:

  • How the search engine decides on placement? Ranking? Paid Placement?
     
  • Databases sort by "Relevance" or Date?

Accuracy or verifiability of details is an important part of the evaluation process, especially when you are reading the work of an unfamiliar author presented by an unfamiliar organization, or presented in a non-traditional way.

Criteria for evaluating accuracy include:

  • For a research document, the data that was gathered and an explanation of the research method(s) used to gather and interpret it are included.
  • The methodology outlined in the document is appropriate to the topic and allows the study to be duplicated for purposes of verification.
  • The document relies on other sources that are listed in a bibliography or includes links to the documents themselves.
  • The document names individuals and/or sources that provided non- published data used in the preparation of the study.
  • The background information that was used can be verified for accuracy.

Point of view or bias reminds us that information is rarely neutral.

Because data is used in selective ways to form information, it generally represents a point of view.

Every writer wants to prove his point, and will use the data and information that assists him in doing so. When evaluating information found on the Internet, it is important to examine who is providing the "information" you are viewing, and what might be their point of view or bias.

The popularity of the Internet makes it the perfect venue for commercial and sociopolitical publishing.

These areas in particular are open to highly "interpretative" uses of data.

Referral to and/or knowledge of the literature refers to the context in which the author situates his or her work. This reveals what the author knows about his or her discipline and its practices. This allows you to evaluate the author's scholarship or knowledge of trends in the area under discussion. The following criteria serve as a filter for all formats of information:

  • The document includes a bibliography.
  • The author alludes to or displays knowledge of related sources, with proper attribution.
  • The author displays knowledge of theories, schools of thought, or techniques usually considered appropriate in the treatment of his or her subject.
  • If the author is using a new theory or technique as a basis for research, he or she discusses the value and/or limitations of this new approach.
  • If the author's treatment of the subject is controversial, he or she knows and acknowledges opposing views.

Evaluating Sources

Criteria for Evaluating & Analyzing Sources

When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.

Criteria Questions to Ask

Authority / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.

  • Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
  • Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
  • Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
  • Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?

Accuracy
The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.

  • Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
  • Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

  • Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
  • To what extent does the source answer your research question?
  • Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
  • Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
  • When was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been updated recently?
  • Is currency pertinent to your research?
Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 
  • What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?

Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

  • Is the source well-written and organized?
  • To what extent is it professional looking?
  • If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
  • If it is a website, are links broken?

 

 

ACT UP

The ACT UP Method

A - Author. Who wrote the resource? Who are they? Background information matters.

C - Currency. When was this resource written? When was it published? Does this resource fit into the currency of your topic?

T - Truth. How accurate is this information? Can you verify any of the claims in other sources? Are there typos and spelling mistakes?

U - Unbiased. Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view? Resources unless otherwise stated should be impartial.

P - Privilege. Check the privilege of the author(s). Are they the only folks who might write or publish on this topic? Who is missing in this conversation? Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you found. How are they described? What are the inherent biases?

 

Dawn Stahura, “ACT UP: Evaluating Sources,” accessed 14 October 2021, https://goo.gl/9G1KTH.

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