When doing research, use the same analytical questions that you ask about any text to determine the value of the researched text’s content and logic:
- Is the claim believable?
- Is the underlying assumption (warrant) acceptable?
- Is the supporting evidence relevant, sufficient, and accurate?
- Has the author cited sources or in some way made it possible for the reader to access evidence used?
- Are there different opinions and perspectives included, especially when there are multiple opinions on an issue?
- Does the author avoid selective use of evidence or other types of manipulation of data?
- Does the offer evidence respectfully, using unbiased language?
- Is there an over-reliance on emotional appeals?
Additionally, you need to evaluate a researched text for the following characteristics, especially when you intend to read and use that text as a source for a research paper:
- the text contains facts/opinions and illustrations that relate to your main idea
- the text was written by someone knowledgeable in the field
- the text is published on a peer-reviewed website or in a scholarly journal, if that type of information is appropriate to your research
- the author carefully cites the sources they used
- the text presents current information, if currency is important to your main idea
The video below discusses how to evaluate information in researched texts.
One way of synthesizing the various questions to evaluate researched sources is the CRAAP analysis, an acronym that stands for
- Currency: the timeliness of the information, as appropriate to your focus.
- Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
- Authority: the source of the information
- Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information
- Purpose: the reason the information exists
The following video offers a good explanation of these points of analysis.
For the article “Forget Shorter Showers” by Derrick Jensen, which of the following sources would be useful to add to the article in order to validate some of the statistical information? Choose all that apply.
- Our World in Data page on Water Use and Stress https://ourworldindata.org/water-use-stress
- How We Use Water https://www.epa.gov/watersense/how-we-use-water
- Water Uses – FAO http://www.fao.org/aquastat/en/overview/methodology/water-use
- America Uses 322 billion gallons of water each day https://ensia.com/articles/water-use/
Source 1 is the best. It is relatively current. It compares industrial, agricultural, and personal water use around the world. It provides references at the end of the article to the sources it used to synthesize and report its data. If you look in the “About” section, you’ll also see this information: “Our World in Data and the SDG-Tracker are collaborative efforts between researchers at the University of Oxford, who are the scientific editors of the website content; and the non-profit organization Global Change Data Lab, who publishes and maintains the website and the data tools that make our work possible.”
Source 2 is the least useful source because, while it provides statistics on how we use water, it does not compare personal and industrial water use, so does not address the article’s focus directly. This is a page on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s site, so there is a possibility that information is slanted. This source also only provides statistics for the U.S., and does not have a date on the page, so there’s no way to determine the currency of the data.
Source 3 is usable. It is relatively current. It also compares industrial, agricultural, and personal/municipal water use. It provides data over time, and provides different sets of data, comparing water consumption by the different users to growth in world population, for different bases of comparison. Source 3’s information is sanctioned and funded by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, which should be apolitical enough to provide objective data.
Source 4 may be usable. It is quite current, and it clearly offers a breakdown of water use in the United States. However, it’s confined to the United States. If you look at the information about the host site ENSIA, you’ll see that they are a non-partisan organization whose “mission is to motivate and empower people around the world to create a more sustainable future by sharing stories and igniting conversations across sectors, geographies, ideologies and disciplines.”