Evaluate Sources with Your A, B, C, Ds!
- A = Author and accuracy
- Who wrote or otherwise created the material? Is s/he an expert in the field? What are his or her credentials? Does s/he work for an organization? Is it reliable?
- Are there any glaring factual errors? Grammatical or spelling errors?
- B = Bias
- People create materials for various reasons: to provide information, to push an opinion, to sell something, or just to be funny, to name a few. What is the purpose of this material, and does that tell you anything about possible bias? Does the author present a balanced point of view? Are there any obvious conflicts of interest? Is the tone objective, or is it emotional?
- Recognize your own bias, too! Do you believe what you're seeing/hearing/reading simply because you want to? Because it fits in with your preconceived notions?
- C = Currency, coverage, and credibility
- How current is the material? What is an acceptable date range for your topic area?
- Is coverage of the topic in depth, or is it shallow? Does information seem to be missing?
- For research studies, is the methodology sound? What does that say about the credibility of the findings?
- D = Documentation and duplication
- Does the author cite his or her sources? Are they credible?
- Can you find the same information in any other source? If you read it first on social media, can you also find it on the news or in a journal article? If research findings, have they been replicated?
Healthy skepticism is a good thing.
If you can't answer these questions, investigate!
You must determine what is appropriate for your topic area or assignment.