When evaluating an information source, especially online information, remember the simple Gut Test-- your immediate first impression after an initial examination or reading of a piece of information.
Consider whether or not the information is:
…then it is probably not a reliable source of information for your assignments.
Using ‘Bad’ Information
But, sometimes "bad" information can be very useful, if you are using the information to illustrate a point, exhibit conflicting or mistaken opinions or to critically analyze it. However, if you use "bad" information, provide context to the information and clearly identify it within your paper.
And one last thing:
Beware of searching for or selecting information that confims your existing beliefs or opinions about a topic.
Use the CRAAP Test to evaluate the quality and relevance of any information (print, online or other format) that you are considering for your assignment.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
Authority: The source of the information
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Purpose: The reason the information exists
Different sources have different roles or purposes in the writing. Students often struggle with incorporating their sources into their writing, so it can be helpful to keep the role of the sources in mind when choosing what sources to use.
BEAM is one way to think about role and purpose:
B - Background - "for materials a writer relies on for general information or for factual evidence"
E - Exhibit - "for materials a writer analyzes or interprets;" examples
A - Argument - "for materials whose claims a writer engages"
M - Method - "for materials from which a writer takes a governing concept or derives a manner of working"
(Bizup, J. (2008). BEAM: A rhetorical vocabulary for teaching research-based writing. Rhetoric Review, 27(1), 72–86. doi:10.1080/07350190701738858)
Eventually in the research and writing process, you will need to engage more deeply with the content of your sources.
The Libraries have many books on discipline-specific research and writing. Try searching in the catalogue on:
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