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Evaluating Sources of Information

When looking at any source of information--from books, to articles, to websites--you should evaluate as many of the following areas as possible. Take the CAARP test by asking yourself the questions below; if you have trouble answering them or can't find the answers the source may be fishy.

Still have questions? Ask a librarian at your campus library or click on the "Research Help" tab to connect with us online.

Currency

  • Can you find a publication date, creation date, or copyright date?
  • Does the information seem out of date?
  • The currency of information will be more important for topics that require the most up-to-date information, such as the sciences.

Strategy: In a book, look towards the front for the publication year or copyright date. For an article, look at the top or bottom for a date. For a website, look at the top or bottom of the webpage.

Authority

  • Who is the author?
  • What are his/her qualifications, or credentials?
  • Is he/she an expert in that particular field?
  • How much has the author published?
  • Do other people make reference to his/her work?
  • Who is responsible for publishing the source or hosting it online?

Strategy: Do a Google search for the author's name and analyze the results.

Accuracy

  • How reliable is the information?
  • Can the facts be checked against other sources?
  • Are sources of factual information and statistics cited?
  • How does this compare to other information sources on the same topic?
  • Is the information free of spelling, grammar, and typographical errors?

Strategy: Search for an article, book, or website on the same topic and compare the information in both sources.

Relevance

  • What is the depth and breadth of the information?
  • Does this information source have any real value?
  • How does this compare to other sources on the same topic?
  • Does it cover the same information? More information or less information?

Strategy: Look at the content. Do you feel that it provides enough information and will be helpful for your topic?

Purpose

  • Does the information have a bias?
  • Does the information have an agenda, or trying to sell something?
  • How does the viewpoint compare to other information sources on the same topic?

Strategy: Read the text. Does it seem like the content simply conveys information, or is it trying to persuade?