Evaluating information for research is just a specialized, advanced form of the same critical thinking skills you already use.
Why is it necessary to critically evaluate information sources?
- No source of information is guaranteed to be trustworthy. You always need to use your own educated judgment, even with scholarly articles from library databases.
- Some sources of information are more trustworthy than others, but it’s hard to tell from appearances.
- Evaluating information using critical thinking will save time and effort by filtering out materials you can’t use.
- Your critical thinking will show up in your writing and you will get better grades.
There are several things to consider when evaluating information sources, so here’s a mnemonic to help you remember them: TRAP
Perspective (and Purpose)
- How recent and up to date is this information?
- Is the date of the material appropriate to the type of research you’re conducting?
- Can you determine the source of this information?
- Can you tell what research methods were used?
- Is the publication scholarly (peer reviewed?)
- Can you tell who created/published it?
- What are their credentials or qualifications to be writing on this topic?
4. Perspective (and Purpose)
- Is the purpose to inform, entertain or persuade?
- To misinform or manipulate (propaganda)?
- What are potential sources of bias?
- Can you discern an agenda?