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MUSC 445: Senior Seminar (Music): Evaluating Sources

Evaluate

Ask these questions to get a sense for whether your source is reliable:

  • Ask who is responsible for the information.
    Are they qualified to teach you? What are their qualifications? Do they have a name, and can you contact them? Why are they providing this information?

  • Ask whether the information can be verified.
    Do other sources agree? Are they providing citations so you can follow their research?

  • Ask how current the information is.
    Has the field of research changed significantly since the information was published? Does the research deal with all relevant discoveries or information? If the information is several years old, what holes might exist in the research? Can you fill these holes with other sources?

  • Ask whether the information is objective.
    Does it present both sides of an issue? Is it designed to persuade you? Does anything about the information seem fishy?

Primary Sources

Think about these questions when evaluating primary sources:

  • Ask who is responsible for the information.
    Who are they? What's their story? Are there things about their life, job, gender, location, or anything else that might impact what they're telling you?

  • Ask who the original audience was.
    Get a sense for why the information was created in the first place. Are you reading letters meant for someone's boss or someone's sweetheart? Is it a private journal or a public newsletter? Are they creating the information for their own benefit, or were they hired? What information might they include, remove, or be less than truthful about depending on the audience?

  • Ask whether other sources match.
    Can you find other primary sources that back up what you're seeing? If they differ, what are possible reasons for the differences? Use other sources to help you uncover biases and different points of view.

CRAAP

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  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?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 affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
         examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government),
                             .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and

  • 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?