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Narragansett High School Library: Information Literacy

Home page for Narragansett HS LibGuides

Evaluating Sources

Lateral Reading Technique--A Tool for Evaluating Sources

Basic Search Terms--Tools to Help You Search More Effectively

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Boolean Operators
You can use more than one Boolean Operator in the same search; however, there is an order that is prioritized during the search.  The priority is NOT, AND, OR.  This means that the search engine will combine the search terms enclosed with NOT first, then search the words combined with AND, then OR.  You should combine your search terms and Boolean Operators with sets of parentheses to separate each search, and use quotation marks around multi-word phrases.

 

Example:

You are searching for information on the benefits of bilingualism on children. Type your search as follows:

(bilingualism OR multilingualism) AND (children OR "young adults")  

This search will return hits including at least one of the terms "bilingualism" or "multilingualism" and also one of the terms "children" or "young adults."

Truncation--using * or ?
Truncation allows a search engine to search for multiple variations (spelling and word endings) of the word being searched.  When truncating, the symbol * or ? are commonly used.  Check the database's rules to see which symbol it uses for truncation.  

 

Example:

If searching for information on athletes, truncate it by typing in:

athlet*

This will search for various forms of this word--such as athlete, athletics, athleticism, etc.

Phrase Searching--using " "
Phrase searching is the most widely used search technique.  Phrase searching is done by putting quotation marks " " around phrases of words.  This tells the search engine to look for that phrase exactly as it is written--it will keep those words together during the search.

 

Example:

When searching for information on the benefits of green living, type the search phrase with quotation marks around it. 

"green living"

Typing it this way will allow search engine to look for those words together, not separate.  If you didn't put quotation marks around the phrase, your search would bring back results of any information that had the word green, and/or living, and/or green living.  Your results would certainly contain information that doesn't have anything to do with the topic of living in an eco-friendly way (aka green living).

Subject Headings
When searching for information in a database or library catalog, each of the items listed has a MARC record.  The MARC record is a digital description of each item in the database or catalog.  The MARC record provides important information for the person looking for sources.  It provides a summary of the item, bibliographic information, and subject headings.  Subject headings are terms that help capture the essence of the topic of the source.  If a source shares a subject heading with a different source, the subject heading will usually be hyperlinked.  Click on the hyperlink to conduct a search of other sources that are organized by the same heading.  Also, notice the subject heading topics...these might give you some ideas of additional terms used to represent the subject you are searching.  See the example below. 

 

Examples: Click on the image

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CRAAPO Test--A Tool for Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Resources: the CRAAPO TEST

 

Consider the following questions as you evaluate the source and determine its reliability.

 

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 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), .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?

 

Objectivity: the impartiality of the information

  • What institution (company, organization, government, university, etc.) supports this information?
  • Does the institution appear to exercise quality control over the information appearing under its name?
  • Does the author's affiliation with this particular institution appear to bias the information?
  • Is there advertising and does it affect the content and message of the source?

 

 After evaluating this source, do you think you will use it for your paper? Why or why not? 

If you are not sure, explain why.

 

from Meriam Library, California State University, Chico