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Public Speaking - Stratton: Evaluating Sources

This guide is designed to help you find supporting evidence for your speech assignments in Crystal Stratton's public speaking course.

FactCheck.Org

A Critical Skill

Knowing how to find information is only half the battle.  Once you have a list of results - whether it is webpages, books, videos or magazine articles - being able to pick the ones that will effectively and efficiently answer your research question is the skill you will need next.

You Choose

Your search of the library catalog brought up the following 5 books, which one looks like it best addresses your topic of Bioterrorism and Homeland Security?

You Choose
Food Supply Protection and Homeland Security: 0 votes (0%)
Homeland Security and Emergency Medical Response: 0 votes (0%)
Biosecurity and Bioterrorism : Containing and Preventing Biological Threats: 1 votes (100%)
Threats to homeland Security : An All-Hazards Perspective: 0 votes (0%)
Homeland Security and Terrorism : Readings and Interpretations: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 1

Evaluate Information

Take the CRAP Test

Evaluate Sources Based on the Following Criteria:
Currency, Reliability, Authority and Purpose/Point of View

* Currency -

  • How recent is the information?
  • Can you locate a date for when the resource was written/created/updated?
  • Based on your topic, is it current enough?
  • Why might the date matter for your topic?

* Reliability -

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion? 
  • Is is balanced or biased?
  • Is there a Bibliography? In other words, does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

* Authority -

  • Can you determine who is the creator or author?
  • What are the credentials (education, affiliation, expertise?)
  • Is the publisher or sponsor reputable?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher’s interest (if any) in this information?
  • Are there advertisements on the website?

* Purpose/Point of View -

  • What's the intent of the article? (to persuade you, to sell you something?)
  • For web resources, what is the domain? (.com .edu, .gov?) How might this influence the purpose or point of view?
  • For web resources, are there ads on the webpage? How do they related to the topic of the web resource? (for example an ad for ammunition next to an article on firearm legislation or against gun control)
  • Is the author presenting fact or opinion?

A Note on Website Domains - a quality filter in Advanced Google searching and in evaluating websites

 

What is the site’s domain? It is the part of the URL after the last "."

Although the system is far from perfect, the following list gives an several kinds of sites, as defined by their domains.   While the type of domain is not a guarantee of reliable information, generally speaking site from .gov or .edu or .org domains are more reliable than those from dot-coms.

 

.gov — government agencies

.edu — educational institutions

.org — organizations, usually non-profit

.com — commercial businesses, including companies that host personal websites and blogs

.net — organizations related to the Internet itself, such as a local Internet Service Provider

 

Adapted from Vanderbilt University Library "What the Crap?": http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/central/crap_files/frame.htm and
Ohio University Libraries:
http://libguides.library.ohiou.edu/content.php?pid=55785&sid=430665

Questions and Answers

The first thing we are going to talk about are criteria.  What are the elements on which we are going to judge our sources?  It may help to think like a reporter and ask yourself Who, What, Why, When, and Where?

  • Who wrote it?
  • What authority does this person or organization have to speak on this topic? Are they open about who they are? Is there name or affiliation available?
  • What are they saying?
  • How reliable is this information? Is it backed up with facts, research, citations? How does it compare with other things you have read on the topic?
  • Why are they writing this?
  • Is the information objective or is there any evident bias? Are they attempting to influence you to take some particular action (i.e., buy something, vote a particular way, etc)? Some bias is obvious, some is subtle. Not all bias is inherently bad, but you need to be able to identify it so that you can ask important questions about what they may not be saying and seek out further information that they may not provide.
  • When was it written?
  • Is the information current? Remember, "old" is a relative term here depending on your topic and how fast things change in that area. News may become old in days or weeks, the latest discoveries in genetics may be old in a couple of years, an essay on a historical topic or piece of literature may have a shelf life of decades.
  • Where does this fit into my paper?
  • Even a book or article that is current, authoritative, reliable and unbiased may not be the best choice for you if it simply fails to answer your research question. Even though you may really like it, trying to squeeze something into your paper that doesn't really fit will probably cost you more effort than just finding a more appropriate source. Plus you run the risk of looking unfocused and disorganized in your final product.