Anyone who uses Web search engines like Google can attest to the fact that there is A LOT of information to be found out there. But not all of that information is timely, relevant, accurate, authoritative, or communicates a distinct purpose. In fact, there is enough intentionally deceptive and misleading information among the terabytes of data on the Internet, that making judgements about what kinds of information sources can be relied upon can be challenging.
Libraries attempt to address the problem of information reliability and authenticity by compiling and selecting collections of databases produced by well known and respected vendors of popular, scholarly, and trade publications. But you may still find that you need to locate information outside the realm of the library database, and even within the university environment, a critical evaluation of a source is still warranted. Biased, inaccurate, or otherwise unreliable information can find its way into almost any venue, academic or otherwise.
The folks at Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) have summed up the situation eloquently on their Web site where they state:
Evaluating sources is an important skill. It's been called an art as well as work—much of which is detective work. You have to decide where to look, what clues to search for, and what to accept. You may be overwhelmed with too much information or too little. The temptation is to accept whatever you find. But don't be tempted. Learning how to evaluate effectively is a skill you need both for your course papers and for your life.
(Driscoll & Brizee, 2013)
This module will help you begin to learn how to think more critically to evaluate information sources.
After completing this module, you should be able to:
Identify and define criteria used to critically evaluate information sources, including:
Identify characteristics of scholarly vs. non-scholarly publications, including:
Primary vs. secondary sources
Peer reviewed publications
Apply the TRAAP test to determine sources that are timely, relevant, authoritative, accurate and purposeful.
View this presentation/video on using the TRAAP Test (with Pugs!)
View the brief video below on evaluating sources (3:15) (courtesy of Brigham Young University)