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FYW: Engage the News: Evaluating

Continuum of Credibility

The continuum of credibility stretches from very skeptical sources such as blogs and personal websites to much less skeptical sources like book by experts and peer reviewed journals

Is it CRAP?

Use the CRAP Test to evaluate sources you find:

Currency

  • How recent is the information?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?
  • If the information is from a website, when was the site last updated?

Reliability

  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion? Is is balanced?
  • Is it provided for a hobbiest, for entertainment, or for a serious audience?
  • Does the creator provide references or sources for data or quotations?

Authority

  • Who are the authors or creators?
  • What are their credentials? Can you find something out about them in another place?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher’s interest (if any) in this information?
  • If it's from a website, does it have advertisements?

Purpose/Point of View

  • Is this fact or opinion?
  • Is it biased? Can you still use the information, even if you know there is bias?
  • Is the the site trying to sell you something, convert you to something or make you vote for someone?

Peer Review

What is Peer Review?

Peer review, also called refereeing, is a prepublication process used by most scholarly journals. Before an article is accepted for publication, the editors will send the manuscript to outside experts for review. The reviewers will then provide feedback on the quality of the research in the paper. The author can usually make revisions and resubmit the work for final acceptance.

Why do I care if an article is peer-reviewed?

Peer-reviewed articles are the gold standard for academic research. For students, it means that other experts have read and approved the methods and conclusions of the work, providing extra authority to the piece.

How do I find peer-reviewed articles?

Use subject databases that specialize in the field, which are more likely to include peer-reviewed journals. Many databases also include a "peer-reviewed articles only" checkbox.

How can I be sure an article is peer-reviewed?

One quick way to tell if an article is peer-reviewed is to look for "submitted/revised/accepted" dates on the first page of the article. These tell you the dates the article went through the various steps of the peer-review process.

You can also look up the journal in UlrichsWeb. Peer-reviewed journals have a symbol that resembles a referee's jersey on them. 

Finally, the most authoriative place to look is the journal's homepage. Just Google the name of the journal. Look for a description of the journal that says "peer-reviewed" there. Also, look at the information for authors or review policy pages. These will often detail the peer-review process for each journal, including which sections of the journal are reviewed and which are merely edited.