Scholarship is a conversation. To effectively be a part of that conversation, you must evaluate your sources, integrate the information, and give credit to the original contributors.
Evaluating Your Sources
You must always think critically about the information you come in contact with. For every kind of source, you should always determine the source's credibility and relevancy to your research. There are many factors to consider. CRAAP!
The CRAAP Test is a list of questions that help you determine if the sources you found are accurate and reliable. Keep in mind that the following list is not static or complete. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
When was the information published or posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
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 the one you will use?
Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?
Authority: The source of the information.
Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)?
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 unbiased and free of emotion?
Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
Integrating Your Sources
To effectively make an argument for your research, you must use information from a credible author. There are three ways of doing this and all three require citing your sources.
Citing Your Sources
To cite your sources in APA, check out this guide:
A bibliography is an organized list of sources (journal articles, books, government documents, websites, etc.) on a specific subject area. Citations in this organized list include the bibliographic information of each source, such as the author, title, and publication information.
An annotation is a note, explanation, or commentary added to a text, image, or other data.
An annotated bibliography is similar to a bibliography, with the difference being that each citation entry includes a brief description and/or assessment of the cited source - an annotation. Annotations are short paragraphs which are usually between 150 and 200 words, however, depending on your purpose they may be substantially longer.
An annotated bibliography can serve the following purposes:
For examples of annotated bibliographies in APA, MLA, and Chicago style, see Annotated Bibliography Samples at the Online Writing Lab by Purdue University.
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