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Research 101

What we will learn:

  • the importance of evaluating sources
  • how to use a way of thinking, like the SIFT model or the CRAP test, to ask questions of the sources we use 

Why is Evaluating Sources Important?

Anytime we look for information, for school or in our daily lives, we make choices about what resources we decide to use and trust. Since the information that we trust helps us build our worldview, it is important to have an objective way of evaluating what we read.

Below are two methods you can use, the SIFT method and the CRAP Test.

SIFT Method

What is a credible/trustworthy source online? How can we tell? All of us ask these questions. The truth is we have to evaluate everything we look at to determine if we can trust it, especially websites. 

The good news is using the SIFT method and other clues can help you decide.

(S)top: Check your emotions.

If a claim causes strong emotions — anger, glee, pride, vindication — and that emotion causes you to share a “fact” with others, STOP. You must fact-check this claim. In addition, if you get lost, or hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole during your investigation, STOP. Back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

(I)nvestigate the source.

Read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.

(F)ind better coverage.

Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research or provided coverage that gives more useful information about the claim or the context of the claim.

(T)race claims, quotes, and media back to the original context.

Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.

Optional Reading

  • Visit Check, Please! to become an evaluation pro (a 2.5 hour evaluation module)

C.R.A.P. Test

There are many things to think about when looking for a credible website.

Some instructors might use the CRAP test (Where you search for Currency, Reliability/Relevance, Authority/Author, and Purpose). 

Let's review each of these elements as you should use them to evaluate each source for your paper.

  • Currency - Is the source up-to-date? Is the topic date-sensitive?
  • Relevance/Reliability - Does the information fit within your research topic and relate to your thesis question? Is the information suitable for your assignment or is it too technical or too simple? Is the information in the source backed with facts and research?
  • Authority/Accuracy - Who wrote the source? What are their credentials? Who published it? Are they reputable? Does it contain information you know to be false? Are their spelling errors or other indications of inaccuracy? Has the content been peer-reviewed?If you don't know what peer review is, this video can introduce you to the concept.
  • Purpose/Point-of-View - Is the author trying to sell something? Is the author trying to persuade readers? Are important facts omitted? What is the bias of the author?

Here's a worksheet to help with evaluating resources. 

CRAP Test worksheet

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