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Information Literacy at Idaho State University: Evaluate Sources

It defines information literacy and leads students to useful resources.

Helpful Handouts

How do I know if it's scholarly?

How will you use your sources?

Background Source: this source can provide context for your project and give needed information to your audience

Exhibit Source: information in sources can be used as examples 

Argument Source: a source with an argument you agree with, disagree with, or want to add to

Method Source: a source with a distinctive way of analyzing a problem you may want to adapt to your project

The BEAM Method invites you to think about how you will use your sources. 

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

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. 
Cover of Time magazine of August 2020
Cover image of Journal of Experimental Psychology

(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? Why does this matter for your question?
  • Has the information been revised or updated? Can you provide the date?
  • Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic? How can you tell?
  • Are the links functional? *

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? How?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper? Why? How much?
  • Who is the intended audience? Children? Adults? Professionals?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)? How can you tell?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Write down at least one author’s name.
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations? Why does that matter?
  • What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address? What are their contact details?
  • What does the URL or domain reveal 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? Qualitative or quantitative research? Interviews? Personal knowledge?
  • Is the information supported by evidence? Give some examples.
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed? How do you know?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from your own personal knowledge? How?
  • Is there a list of references? What does that tell you?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion? Provide some examples.
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors? What does that tell you?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade? How can you tell? What clues did you find?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purposes clear? How?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda? How can you tell?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? How can you tell?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases? Does it make a difference? Why?

                                                                            Key: *indicates criteria for Web only

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