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COM 400 Communication Ethics

Academic Databases

Evaluating Sources

Key questions when evaluating a source:

  • What expertise does the author hold?
  • What evidence does the author provide?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What is the main purpose?

Evaluation in Four Moves

Education expert and information literacy blogger Mike Caufield came up with these "four moves" for evaluating sources:

  • STOP. Most stories you see on the web have been either covered, verified, or debunked by more reputable sources. Before diving in, find a reputable source that has done your work for you. If you can find that, maybe your work is done.
  • INVESTIGATE THE SOURCE. Trace the claim or story or research to the source. If you don’t recognize it, you will need check the credibility of the source by looking at available information on its reliability, expertise, and agenda.
  • FIND BETTER COVERAGE. Most stories shared with you on the web are re-coverage of some other reporting or research. Follow the links and get to the source. If you recognize the source as credible, your work may be done.
  • TRACE CLAIMS, QUOTES & MEDIA BACK TO ORIGINAL CONTEXT. A reminder that even when we follow this process sometimes we find ourselves going down dead ends. If a certain route of inquiry is not panning out, try going back to the beginning with what you know now. Choose different search terms and try again.

Adapted from "Recognition Is Futile: Why Checklist Approaches to Information Literacy Fail and What To Do About It" by Mike Caulfield, February 18, 2018,