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Evaluating Sources: Evaluation Frameworks

A guide to evaluating sources.

Using Evaluation Frameworks

Evaluation frameworks are guides that can help you evaluate sources for both reliability and relevance. There are many frameworks out there and they all have slightly different focuses depending on the disciplines they are aimed toward. You will notice in the featured frameworks on this page that there are a variety of differences as well as some similarities across the frameworks' components. The one piece that extends across almost all frameworks is "Authority," which focuses on the author's/creator's knowledge and credibility concerning the content of the source.

Evaluation Frameworks

Applicable Disiplines:

Any! You can use the CRAAP Test to evaluate sources across all disciplines. 


Evaluation Criteria 

C—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?

R—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?  

A—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?  

A—Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.  

  • Where does the information come from? Is it supported by evidence?  
  • Has the source undergone peer review?  
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?  

P—Purpose: The reason the information exists. 

  • What is the purpose of the information? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions/purpose clear?  
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?  
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial, or is there bias (political, cultural, religious, institutional, personal etc.)?

Adapted by Jennifer Switzer from “Evaluating Information—Applying the CRAAP Test” by Meriam Library licensed under CC BY 4.0 International License.

The CRAAP Method was developed by Meriam Library at California State University.   


Applicable Disciplines:

IF I APPLY is widely applicable, but it is especially useful within the social sciences! If you are in the field of anthropology, sociology, criminal justice, social work, political science, gender studies, or any other related field, this is the evaluation framework for you!


Evaluation Criteria:

The Personal Steps:

I—Identify your emotions surrounding the topic

  • What are your honest opinions regarding the topic?
  • Have you addressed your internal biases?
  • What identities are affected by this and should be represented?

F—Find unbiased reference sources that will provide an overview of the topic

  • Conduct a general knowledge overview.
  • Search for information in encyclopedias, wikis, dictionaries, etc.

 

I—Intellectual courage to find sources outside of your comfort zone or thesis

  • Have the courage to find authoritative sources with different viewpoints on the topic.
  • Have the courage to reject unsound arguments across viewpoints.
  • Have the courage to accept credible arguments outside of your thesis.

The Source Steps:

A—Authority

  • Who wrote/created the source?
  • What makes the author an authority on the topic (degrees, credentials, profession, etc.)?
  • Have they written anything else?
  • Do they specialize in certain topics or fields?

P – Purpose/point of view of source

  • Why was the information published?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the content relevant to your topic or information needs?
  • Are diverse perspectives represented?

P – Publisher

  • What type of publisher is it (scholarly, commercial, government, self, etc.)?
  • What other types of work have they published (if any)?
  • Is the information published in its original form or has it been revised?

L – List of sources

  • Does the source have citations? What do they look like?
  • Does the number of sources cited make sense with the length of the source?
  • Do the types of sources cited make sense with the topic/content of the source?

Y – Year of publication

  • When was this source originally published?
  • How does the age of the source impact the information (if at all)?
  • What is the currency of the cited information?
  • Is the information routinely updated?

CC BY NC. Adapted by Jennifer Switzer from University of Wisconsin Libraries adapted from “If I APPLY Think-Questions for Each Step” by Kat Phillips, Eryn Roles, and Sabrina Thomas.


Applicable Disciplines:

SIFT and PICK are widely applicable, but they are especially useful within communication, business, marketing, economics, media studies, and similar disciplines.


Evaluation Criteria: SIFT

S—Stop

  • Check your emotions before engaging
  • Do you know and trust the author, publisher, publication, or website?
    • If not, use the following fact-checking strategies before reading, sharing, or using the source in your research

I—Investigate the Source

  • Don’t focus on the source itself for now.
  • Instead, read laterally
    • Learn about the source’s author, publisher, publication, website, etc. from other sources, such as Wikipedia

F—Find Better Coverage

  • Focus on the information rather than getting attached to a particular source
  • If you can’t determine whether a source is reliable, trade up for a higher-quality source
  • Professional fact-checkers build a list of sources they know they can trust

T—Trace claims to the original context

  • Identify whether the source is original or re-reporting
  • Consider what context might be missing in re-reporting
  • Go “upstream” to the original source
    • Was the version you saw accurate and complete?

CC BY 4.0. Adapted by Jennifer Switzer from "The SIFT Method" by Mike Caulfield.


Evaluation Criteria: PICK

P—Purpose/Genre/Type

  • Determine the type of source (book, article, website, social media post, etc.)
    • Why and how it was created?
    • How it was reviewed before publication?
  • Determine the genre of the source (factual reporting, opinion, ad, satire, etc.)
  • Consider whether the type and genre are appropriate for your information needs

I—Information Relevance/Usefulness

  • Consider how well the content of the source addresses your specific information needs
    • Is it directly related to your topic?
    • How does it help you explore a research interest or develop an argument?

C—Creation Date

  • Determine when the source was first published or posted
    • Is the information in the source (including cited references) up-to-date?
  • Consider whether newer sources are available that would add important information

K—Knowledge-Building

  • Consider how this source relates to the body of knowledge on the topic
    • Does it echo other experts’ contributions? Does it challenge them in important ways?
      • Does this source contribute something new to the conversation?
  • Consider what voices or perspectives are missing or excluded from the conversation
    • Does this source represent an important missing voice or perspective on the topic?
    • Are other sources available that better include those voices or perspectives?
  • How does this source help you to build and share your own knowledge?

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Adapted by Jennifer Switzer from "Sift & Pick" by Ellen Carey.


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