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MUS 228: Pedagogy: Evaluate Information

Why do we have to evaluate music information?

Music information is created through the everyday activities of performers, audiences, composers, journalists, teachers, students and scholars. They create scores, record music, and write letters, books and articles to document their interaction with music. Today we can add blogs and podcasts to the list, but the essential principles have been the same since antiquity. In a sense we all participate in one big "conversation" about music with innumerable smaller 'conversations'.

People in these groups have varying interests and approaches to music, so they bring different perspectives to these "conversations." This affects the way they communicate about music - the assumptions they start with, the opinions they hold, the kind of evidence they think is persuasive, and even the format of their communication!

The particular perspective from which we approach a musical conversation also affects the way we perceive information.

For example, an article about Baroque era tunings may be of great interest to the researcher who wrote it and to performers interested in contemporary-practice performances, but not be very useful for a student trying to understand the history of women opera singers.

When you find a source, such as blog post or newspaper article, you need to consider its original context and purpose in order to evaluate how you can use it. This task of evaluation is one of the biggest challenges facing music researchers. Fortunately, you can improve at it with practice, like any other musicianship skill.

The information cycle

Skilled researchers understand how information is produced in a "cycle".

As different individuals and organizations react to an event, they create documents such as social networking posts, blogs, articles and books. These become information sources for researchers (like you).

This tutorial describes a typical information cycle surrounding a historical event that happened a few years ago. Can you imagine how events in the world of music create this kind of information cycle? How could you use that cycle to research those events?

Music information sources

CRAAP: a test for evaluating information

The CRAAP Test -- When searching for information on the Web you’re going to find lots of it … but is it accurate and reliable? Whether reading a book or a website, be an information skeptic--scrutinize, analyze, and evaluate your sources.
 
Currency:
• 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?
 
Relevance:
• How well does this suit your topic or answer your questions? 
• Who is the intended audience?
• Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
 
Authority:
• 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 a way to contact the author?
 
Accuracy
• Where does the information come from?
• Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
• Can you verify any of the information?
• Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion? 
 
Purpose
• Is the purpose to inform, sell, entertain, or persuade?
• Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions clear?
• Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda? 

Source: California State University - Chico Libraries