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College Writing: Official Guide

It is important to evaluate the sources that have decided to use for your research. You might be familiar with the CRAAP test for evaluating web resources but you should to evaluate all the resources you select, just not ones you have found on the web.

There is not one "right" way to evaluate the sources that you have identified to use in your research. This page includes some guidance and questions you can ask yourself as you select sources for your research.

The “CARS” Test

One model that you can use to evaluate your selected sources is the CARS test. This model asks you to look at 4 different areas of the resource to determine if you can use it for your research.

The CARS Test is NOT a scorecard to determine if something is "good" but suggestions for aspects to consider when evaluating a resource.

The image below shows the questions you might ask yourself in each of these areas. The same questions are listed below the image.

The four areas are and some questions you might ask in each area:

  • Credibility
    • Who is the author(s) of this resource?
    • Is there an author(s)?
    • What are their credentials?
    • Why would you listen to what they have to say?
  • Accuracy
    • When was this resource written?
    • Do you think that you would be able to find the same information someplace else?
  • Reasonableness
    • What is the purpose of this resource?
    • In your own words, tell us what this resource is about?
    • Is this resource trying to make you believe something or does the information seem balanced and factual?
  • Support
    • Does this resource provide a way to contact the author(s)?
    • Does this resource have a bibliography where they got their information from?

More Questions to Ask

In addition to using questions from the CARS evaluation, there are many other ways to evaluate a source and many questions you can ask yourself about the source.

Additional questions you might ask yourself 

  1. Who is the author (or creator) of this source? (Keep in mind that an author's/creator's expertise on a given subject may be derived from education, position in society, experience, or other factors.)

  2. For what purpose was this information created and who is the intended audience?

  3. What methods were used to produce the information in this source and when was it produced?

  4. Does this author/source seem to be “in conversation” with other works? In what way might other conversations impact the information in this source?

  5. What perspectives or which voices might be missing from this source? Why might these have been excluded?


Additional Strategies for Evaluating Information

Again, there is no "correct" way to evaluate the sources that you have selected to use in your research. It will be a combination of different questions that you will ask yourself. The chart below provides some additional questions to ask yourself as you are determining whether to use a particular source in your research.

Cue

What tactics could I use?

Why am I looking for this information?

  • Pause and reflect
  • Review the requirements for the task at hand
  • Seek additional information about the task if the requirements are unclear.

How did this come into my life?

  • Pause to acknowledge and check gut feelings about the initial appearance of the source
  • Develop or reflect on a search strategy
  • Go up stream
  • Consider credible recommendations.

Is it easy to investigate?

  • Note whether it is easy to identify the format
  • Check the about page for purpose and process information
  • Check a few referenced sources
  • Perform a few web searches to verify accuracy.

Do I know what this is?

  • Pause
  • Look for obvious labels to indicate format
  • Look for other indications of a known format
  • Avoid judgements based on visual features that do not connect to format
  • If no format can be discerned, move on to another cue.

Is this reviewed?

  • Look for labels, such as "peer reviewed"
  • Look up a source in a search engine, library catalog, or in reference sources
  • Check for an about page.

Does the creator know what they're talking about?

  • Look for information about the creator via the source itself
  • Look for information about the creator using an outside reference source or search engine (lateral reading).

Does this information make sense?

  • Pause and consider instinctive judgements
  • If an expert, evaluate content
  • If a non-expert, discard source if obvious poor quality or try another cue if not sure.