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Master's ODL: Evaluating materials


Changes in the way we get our information - online publishing, self-publishing, predatory publishing - have created challenges for scholars.  Not only do we have an increase in volume of information, but questions of provenance are often difficult to answer.  As you become more familiar with research in your field, you will have a better sense of what information is reliable and which articles are dubious.

As you process information, particularly information found through searches for publicly available documents on the web, consider the following things:

Who or what is responsible for the information?  Do they have the credentials to speak reliably on the topic?  How can you verify the content?  Why are they creating this content?  Are they trying to sell you something or is the information legitimate scholarly content?  How old is the information? 

The library at Cal State Chico developed the CRAAP test, which is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose:
Evaluation Criteria:
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
• When was the information published or posted?
• Has the information been revised or updated?
• Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well? Are the links functional?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
• 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 citing this source in your research paper?
Authority: The source of the information.
• Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
• What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
• Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
• Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address? Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
• 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 unbiased and free of emotion?
• Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
• What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
• Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
• Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
• Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
• Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

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