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Evaluating Sources: Introduction

This tutorial will help you evaluate and analyze sources critically in order to judge their appropriateness to your purpose.

Why evaluate your sources

You're working on a research assignment, and you need to find some reliable sources to develop a thesis. You find some resources online that seem like they'll be perfect for your assignment, but are they trustworthy?

There are several reasons you'll want to evaluate your sources before including them in your assignments.

1. It will help you determine the trustworthiness or credibility of a source.

2. Better sources = better research.

3. Better sources shows the reader that you really understand your topic.

4. Evaluating sources allows you to be selective in the sources you use.

5. It's a critical part of the research process.

Things to consider:

#1: What types of sources does my instructor allow? Some only allow scholarly, peer-reviewed sources of information.

#2: Is my popular source credible? While some instructors allow you to pull in sources of information that are not scholarly, such as from news, magazines, websites, and data, they still want your source to be credible.

How to evaluate your sources

SIFT stands for stop, investigatefind, and trace.

This process is designed to be super quick (a few minutes or so, as compared to the more in-depth evaluation in the CRAAP method). This will help you quickly decide if the source is worth further evaluation using the CRAAP test. 

It will:

  • Enable you to determine if you should invest more time in the source

  • Be a useful strategy for everyday life (should you believe or share stuff you find online) and for academic research.

CRAAP stands for currencyrelevanceauthorityaccuracy, and purpose. This test is helpful in supplementing the SIFT method, as it will give you a more in-depth evaluation of the source.

A few important things to note:

  • It will help you determine whether you should include a source in your research or not.

  • It should not be used as a checklist, but rather as a way of interrogating a source, to evaluate its usefulness.

Why use both methods to evaluate your sources

Here’s a helpful way to think about these two methods: SIFT is meant to help you make a quick decision about whether to spend time doing a more comprehensive evaluation. The CRAAP test will help you do that in-depth evaluation before you use the resource in your research.