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ENGL 082 Bailey

Introduction to Library resources

Evaluating Sources & Critical Thinking

The Internet contains millions of web pages and more information than a single person could ever process. People are very reliant on digital content for their news and entertainment. When people get their information from online news outlets, social media, and online publications, it can be difficult to identify biased or inaccurate sources. You may need to review multiple sources to confirm information or seek out original sources to verify information. 

  • Is it relevant to your topic?
  • Are there clues that tell you the author is an expert on the content?
  • Does the information advocate for a particular stance or from a specific angle?
  • Who created this information?
  • Is there evidence for any claims made or facts presented?
  • Are there links to original sources or references?
  • Why was this information created?
  • Whose voice does this information represent and amplify?
  • Is the information timely, or does it need to be? Is it historical information?
  • Who is the audience the content was written for? Is it overly simplified or overly complicated?
  • Can you find other reliable sources that corroborate the information?
  • Are there better sources that exist on this topic?

How Algorithms Lead to Oppression

Filter Bubbles & Search Engines

Scholarly Versus Academic Sources

The Internet and the Library make it is easy to find information, but it is more difficult to identify sources you can rely on. Evaluate your sources carefully to ensure you've selected material that is trustworthy and appropriate for your assignment.

Scholarly Academic Publications

  • Written by an expert in the field of study (an academic or trained specialist)
  • Date of publication is provided
  • Publisher may be Colleges/Universities, professional associations, scholarly publishers + research institutes
  • Purpose of the article or publication is to report on experiments, theories, case studies + other research
  • Editing is conducted through the peer review process, by experts in the field
  • Sources are used in the author's research are cited in a reference list or footnotes

Popular Publications

  • Written by those without expertise in the field (a member of the public or journalist) or no author is stated
  • Popular publications, especially WWW publications, often do not give a date of publication
  • Published by commercial for-profit publishers or members of the public
  • Purpose of the publication is to sell advertised products, inform, promote a point of view or entertain
  • Review of content is by a generalist (a magazine editor) or no review
  • Sources are rarely cited or are inaccurate Other Accurate spelling + grammar, few advertisements, logical + well written Spelling + grammar errors may occur, many advertisements, poor or variable writing quality

The SIFT Method for Evaluating Sources

The SIFT method was created by Mike Caulfield, a researcher from Stanford University. It allows you to use a critical eye for evaluating online sources and encourages people to use other sources to test the validity of reliability of information.

Stop​ - Before you read something and especially before you share something, ask yourself, Do you recognize the source?​ What kind of emotions is this resource bringing up for me? 

Investigate the source​ - Consider the source’s expertise, motivation, and privilege. Expertise may mean different things depending on the topic and the context. In some cases, it means educational credentials, professional experience, etc. In other cases, personal experience with a topic is more valuable ​Consider the source’s expertise, motivation, and privilege. Why is the author sharing this information?​ Is it for financial gain?​ To advance their career?​ To inform the public?​ To entertain the public?​ Who benefits the most from this information being shared?​ Whose voices are being amplified in this resource?​ “Nothing about us without us”: If the topic is about a particular community, is it written by someone with lived experience in that community?​ Consider your own privilege and biases, too: ​How many sources by women, IBPOC, and other marginalized ​groups are you reading?​ 

Find better coverage​ - What other coverage is available on the same topic?​ Most big news stories that are true get covered by multiple major news outlets.​ Keep track of trusted news sources and build up your own library of trusted sources.​ Use fact-checking sites like to investigate claims being made. For images, you can do a reverse image search

Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context - Going to the original source allows for a more complete and accurate picture of the issue.​ Your goal is to find the first person that reported on the topic and, ideally, witnessed the topic themselves. ​When reading online sources, pay attention to who they quote as a source and see if you can find more information. ​If there are hyperlinks in the source that point toward original studies, click on those to follow the chain to the original source. ​If there is a bibliography, open up the original reporting sources listed.  ​Google key terms (or the actual terms) if the source has no mention of the origin​. After you've found the original claim, quote, finding, or news story, ask yourself if it was fairly and accurately represented in the media that you initially came across. ​


Spotting Misleading Information

Using the 5 W's to Evaluate a Source

Adapted from The CRAAP Test, developed by librarians at California State University, Chico

How to spot fake news

Tips on spotting fake news. Click the image for the PDF version.
PDF version of the above image

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