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GEOG 200: Course Guide (Victoria & Gosia): Evaluating Sources

A research guide intended for geography 200 students working on the in place/out of place assignment

Fake Information, Real Consequence

False, fake or misleading information can have serious real-life consequences.

In November 2016, misleading news sites reported a conspiracy theory that Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington was operating a child sex ring in its basement with help from the Democratic Party. The conspiracy theory was false, and the pizza place did not even have a basement. Though many legitimate news sites reported that the story was false, some adhered to the conspiracy theory, including a gunman who entered and fired shots inside the restaurant claiming he wanted to "self-investigate" the story. 

Luckily, no one was hurt, but stories like these show the importance of thinking critically and evaluating sources of information. that true?

Verifying information you find through social media or Google requires a bit of detective work, especially if you don't know much about the topic. The sites below can help you check the accuracy of the information you find online. 

Want to Learn More? Fake News Guide

How to Choose Your News

With so many news sources available today, it's hard to decide which news sources to trust. In the video below, Damon Brown explains how news is produced and how readers can tell opinions from facts and non-facts. 

Brown, D [TED-Ed]. (2014, June 5). How to choose your news - Damon Brown. [Video file]. Retrieved from 

Ask Questions: CRAAPP Detector

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating sources is not a black or white process. Sources are usually not either "good" or "bad" though there are sources that the majority would agree are better or worse to use than others.

How you plan on using information also matters. Something you would share online with friends is not necessarily a source to use for an academic paper. 

CRAAPP Detector

Using the CRAAPP Detector can help you think critically about sources. Some of the criteria will be more or less important depending on how you plan to use the information.

Currency: how current is the information?

  • When was the information created, published or updated? If the source was recently published, is it just rehashing old information as though it is new? 
  • Do I need sources that were published recently?  Are older sources OK or even preferable? 

Relevance: does the source satisfy my information needs? 

  • Is the source related to my research topic?
  • Who is the intended audience for the source? Children, the general public, academics?  
  • How does it help me better understand my topic?

Authority: who created the information?

  • Who is the creator or publisher of the information? Do they have a strong reputation? What are the author's credentials or affiliations? 
  • Is the author's expertise related to the subject? How did they become an authority on the topic?: through scholarship, or something else, like personal experience or social position? 

Accuracy: how accurate is the information? 

  • Was the information reviewed by others before being published? Does it contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors? 
  • Is it fact or opinion? Do the authors leave out important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Is it clear how the author came to their conclusions? Are sources traceable? 

Purpose: why was the information created? 

  • Does the information exist to educate, inform, sell, entertain, or persuade? 
  • Is it biased? Do authors use strong or emotional language? Are various viewpoints considered? Whose viewpoints are considered and whose are left out? 

Process: what effort went into creating the information? 

  • How much reflection and research went into creating the information? Was it edited, peer-reviewed, or self-published? How was the information shared?