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GEOL 1405 SE Caputi: Evaluating Sources

Where you live is a huge decision, so make sure you are gathering data from credible sources. Below, you will see one method of evaluation.

Evaluate Potential Resources with the CAARP Test

The most important step of writing a good science paper is using the right sources. The sources you consult for your paper should guide you in your city choice and be authoritative enough to convince anyone reading your paper that your choice is right. The CAARP test will help you evaluate the books, journal articles, and websites you come across in your research.


Run all of your potential sources through the CAARP test by evaluating each resource by these 5 criteria:

Currency: Recent information is informed by the full range of research on your topic. If two resources are similar, choose the newer one. A good rule of thumb is to try to find information less than 5 years old.

Authority: If the author is not an expert (advanced degree and/or works in that field), the source is less credible. Google the author to try to find their credentials and work background. This technique is called lateral reading and is often used by professional fact checkers.  

Accuracy: Is someone other than the author evaluating the information before publication to make sure it is correct and the conclusions the author draws are valid? When your professors ask you to find a peer-reviewed resource, they want you to use an article from an academic journal. These articles are written by experts and evaluated by other experts before they are published. Peer-reviewed articles are easily found using the filters in library databases. If you use any resource outside of a peer-reviewed journal, you will personally need to evaluate the information for accuracy. This can be harder to do if your potential sources does not have a reference list.

Relevance: You want sources that are the best fit for your topic and are written at the right level for what you need. Give preference to articles that focus on your topic rather than just mention it.

Purpose: Be careful about biased sources. You are looking for sources that inform rather than persuade or sell. An easy way to find more neutral sources is to use the library databases. Climate change is a politically charged topic, so if you do want to use a website, Google the organization responsible to find out if it has a political bias (more lateral reading!).

Make sure you download the handout linked above so you can apply the CAARP test while you are researching. Your job as a researcher is to find the best sources you can. If you are having trouble, please Ask a Librarian!