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Using Information Responsibly: Evaluating Sources

A multimedia tutorial that defines academic integrity, citing sources, and plagiarism.

Tools for Verifying

Verify, cross-check, and compare content you see online to avoid spreading "fake news." Here are few basic tools to get you started:

Fact Checkers

Verify Webpage History

Verify Images

Found an image you think may have been manipulated or photo-shopped? Use these tools to check for any digital changes:

Want more tools? Check out the Verification Handbook's List of Tools 

Source: LMU/LA Library:

How to Spot Fake News

Helpful Handouts

Scholarly vs. Popular

Scholarly and Non-scholarly Sources
Magazine or Journal Article: How Do You Know?

You may sometimes see the terms "magazine" and "journal" used interchangeably to indicate any publication that is published regularly, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc. (You can know a regular publication because its issues are marked with some sort of numbering system and/or a date.) The table below provides some helpful tips for distinguishing between the two types of publications.

Titles do not always reveal the source type. Not all journals have the word "journal" in their titles!  Most of the time databases include both types of sources, but you may encounter a strictly scholarly database.  Read the database description. 
Time Magazine
American Journal of Psychotherapy

(non-scholarly–popular literature)

(scholarly–peer reviewed)

Computer World
Science News
Journal of Applied Math
Yale Review
Comparative Literature
Articles are fairly short, providing an overview on a focused topic.
Long, in-depth analysis of topics, sometimes very narrowly focused. Reports on original research.
Written in non-technical language for non-expert readers.
Language can be full of technical jargon.  Written for researchers, professors or students in a particular field. 
Often glossy paper, lots of pictures, sidebars. Articles do not follow a specific format.
Plain paper, sometimes figures, charts and tables included.  Articles follow a specific structure: Abstract, literature overview, methodology or analysis, conclusion, references.
Author is usually a staff writer or reporter.  Name and credentials are not always indicated.
Author is usually an expert in a particular field: a scholar or researcher with noted credentials.
Articles are not reviewed by experts, but by magazine staff members (editors).
Articles are reviewed by members of an editorial board who are experts in the field.
A bibliography is usually not provided.
Sources are cited with footnotes and bibliographies (work cited) documenting the research thoroughly.
Includes many general consumer ads.
Ads, if any, are limited to other journals, special services or products in a specific field.

Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test

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 that this is the 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?
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, .edu, .gov, .org, .net*

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 your own personal knowledge?
Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free from 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?
* Indicates criteria for Web only

Prepared by Kristin Johnson, CalState University, Chico 02/02--Used by Eli M. Oboler Library with permission 

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