Skip to main content

Interrogate & Evaluate Resources — Evaluation Toolkit

Evaluation Exploration Toolkit

Lego Hiker

This is a toolkit for you to rummage around in, taking questions to ask and ways to think from each. No one set of questions has all the answers - it's up to you, the intrepid information explorer, to assemble your expeditionary tools, as you evaluate the information you find.

Information is created for a reason. Nothing slipped & fell and ended up on the internet, or in print, or on TV. It takes an act of human intentionality to create and publish information. This toolkit will give you a starting point to pull back the curtain on what you read, watch, listen to, or experience, and think about how you interact and respond to the information you find.

Four Moves

  • Check for previous work. Most stories you see on the web have been either covered, verified, or debunked by more reputable sources. Find a reputable source that has done your work for you. If you can find that, maybe your work is done.
  • Go upstream to the source. If you can’t find a rock-solid source that has done your verification and context-building for you, follow the story or claim you are looking at to it’s origin. Most stories shared with you on the web are recoverage of some other reporting or research. Follow the links and get to the source. If you recognize the source as credible, your work may be done.
  • Read laterally. If you have traced the claim or story or research to the source and you don’t recognize it, you will need check the credibility of the source by looking at available information on its reliability, expertise, and agenda.
  • Circle back. A reminder that even when we follow this process sometimes we find ourselves going down dead ends. If a certain route of inquiry is not panning out, try going back to the beginning with what you know now. Choose different search terms and try again.

Created by Mike Caulfield.

Want to learn why he came up with this?

Six Questions

What type of content is this?

  • Recognize first what kind of content you’re looking at.
    • Is it a news story? Or is it an opinion piece? Is it an ad or what some people call native advertising produced by a company? Is it a reaction to someone else’s content?

Who and what are the sources cited and why should I believe them? 

  • News content usually cites sources for the information provided. These are the people quoted, or the documents or reports or data being referred to.

Evidence: What's the evidence and how was it vetted?

  • Evidence is the proof that the sources offer for what they know. It overlaps with how close someone is to an event. But even highly credentialed sources may begin to speculate sometimes. They may be guessing.
    • So, first, identify the evidence that any source is offering. Circle it. Write it down. Do it as an exercise a couple times. It becomes easy to recognize.

Interpretation: Is the main point of the piece proven by the evidence?

  • Most media content offers a thesis, or main point, of some kind [...]  ask whether this main point makes sense, and whether the conclusions are supported by the evidence offered.

Completeness: What's missing?

  • Most content should lead to more questions. An important step in being a critical, questioning consumer is to ask yourself what you don’t understand about a subject. Look back at the piece. Did you miss something? Or was it not there?

Knowledge: Am I learning every day what I need?

  • Think about what media you consumed yesterday. What did you learn about? What did you read about?

BEAM: How to Use a Source

This method was created to help you think about different sources and how you might put them all together for your final product.

Background Sources

  • Sources accepted as unquestionable fact, undisputed information
  • Examples: dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference materials

Exhibits or Evidence Sources

  • Sources used for explication, analysis, or interpretation
  • Examples: often primary sources like newspapers, primary research articles, data

Argument  Sources

  • Sources from other authors you are agreeing with, disagreeing with, or building upon
  • Examples: scholarly articles or books

Method Sources

  • Sources an author follows to determine how they are doing their research. Key terms, a specific procedure, model or perspective
  • Examples: textbooks, literature reviews with commentary on research

 

Bizup, Joseph. "BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing." Rhetoric Review 27, no. 1 (2008): 72-86. doi:10.1080/07350190701738858

WAIL Your Sources!

Word Choice

  • What do you notice about the choice of words? For example, are the words formal or informal?

Adjectives & Adverbs

  • How do the adjectives & adverbs shape meaning and bias?

What's Included?

  • What information does the source make sure to include?

What's Left Out?

  • What information has been left out of the source? Is there important information missing?
Based on these questions, what conclusions can you draw about your source?

Evaluate Using the CRAAP Test

The CRAAP test is just one method to use when evaluating information sources. The tool was developed by the librarians at California State University at Chico. Note items with an asterisk apply to online sources.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional? *

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? *
     examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government),  .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?