How can I tell if a source is good?
Good is a relative term ... what is sufficient, acceptable, relevant, or worthy changes with each information need. However, there are some general evaluation criteria that you can apply to a source to see whether it meets your information needs.
These criteria form a checklist known as the CRAAP test:
- Do I need current or historical information? Is this the most updated source I can find? Or is this source from the proper time frame to serve as a historical resource?
- Has this information been revised or changed since it was published?
- Bottom line: Does this offer appropriately current or historical information?
- Does this information help me accomplish the purpose of my paper/work?
- Does this easily relate to my topic?
- Does this information strengthen my argument or statements?
- Bottom line: Is this a source that adds value to my work? Is it worth including?
- Who is the author? What expertise do they have -- knowledge, education, experience?
- Who is the publisher? Why have they made this information available?
- Does the author or published have any motivation or bias for their work?
- Bottom line: Can you trust this author to know what they're talking about? Is this person the best source that you can find on this topic?
- Is this information correct? Reliable?
- Can this information be verified in other sources?
- What methods did they use to collect this information/data? How did they draw their conclusions?
- Do they list their sources? Are these sources academic/scholarly/credible?
- Bottom line: Can you trust that this information is true?
- Why was this written? Why does this information exist? Why was it made public?
- What was the writer's purpose? The publisher's purpose?
- Are there any hints of bias? Is the author up front about this bias?
- Is this information trying to persuade or influence you?
- Bottom line: Understanding the purpose of the source can ensure that you do not fall prey to biased or one-sided information.