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EVST 399/SOAN 300: Research Methods: Choose Your Sources Wisely

Spring 2018

Student as Decision-Maker

Beyond searching for information, research requires that students wisely choose which information sources they include in their projects.

College professors routinely receive work indicating a need for improvement in this area. Use the following to make well-informed decisions and to help you explain your decisions.

Note: SCWT Criteria are not meant to replace the CRAAP Test, but rather to work alongside it to help students select the best credible sources.

Guides and Handouts

Here are a few documents that will be useful as you do your research.

SCWT--Scout Out the Best Sources

Research SCWT

Search Strategies

What search terms can you use? What search tools can you use (i.e. subject searches)? What can you do to expand/limit your results? Have you used citations from bibliographies? How do you continue to refine your search? What other options can you exhaust?

Complementing your Sources

How does your source contribute uniquely to your project? How does it complement the other sources you're using? How does it relate concepts and issues raised in your class? How does it push beyond class readings and discussions? How does it compare with other available sources? How have you exhausted your options?

Where Will You Look?

Where you look will affect what search strategies to use. Options sometimes overlooked include government sources--online and print, published research guides--field or topic specific, bibliographies, indexes, databases--private AND public, directories, handbooks, manuals, and more.

Types of Information

Information types often overlooked are dissertations, conference proceedings, government documents, trade publications, grey literature (material such as agendas, reports, and other internal documents that aren't usually formally published), and more. Searches for primary sources often require careful consideration of the forms available and related to one's topic.

Good source? Bad source?

Evaluating Information—Applying the CRAAP Test

When you search for information you’re going to find lots of it…but is it accurate and reliable? You will have to determine that for yourself, and the CRAAP Test can help. The CRAAP Test is a list of questions you can ask in order to determine if the information you have is reliable. Please keep in mind that the following list of questions is not static or complete. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need. So, what are you waiting for? Is your web site credible and useful, or is it a bunch of…?! 
 
Evaluation Criteria

Currency: The timeliness of the information.
• 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.
• 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.
• Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
• Are the author’s credentials or organizational affliations given?
• What are the author’s qualifications 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  (pertains to Websites only)
 
Accuracy:  The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational 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 biased and free of emotion? 
• Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
 
Purpose:  The reason the information exists.
• 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?