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GENE10001 Genetics in the Media

Evaluating Resources

When reading/listening/watching about scientific discoveries and information it is important to critically evaluate what you find and in particular where you found it.  

The CRAP Test is a standard formula for critically evaluating scholarly journal articles, news items, websites, social media posts - all kinds of digital and non-digital sources of information.  You need to be able to distinguish between quality, authoritative sources, and those written or produced by amateurs or those with a particular bias.  Click through the above tabs to learn more about each evaluation criteria.

In essence, it needs to pass the CRAP test: Currency, Relevance & Reliability, Authority, Point of Vew & Purpose 

When was it published?

Look for a publication or copyright date on the

  • Title page (books, journals)
  • Reverse of the title page (books)
  • Cover (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • Table of contents (journals, magazines)
  • Bottom of the page (web sites)

Has the source been updated in another edition?

Dates on web pages may indicate:

  • When the page was created.
  • When the page was published on the web.
  • When the page was last revised.

Broken Links can also indicate a webpage is not being regularly updated.

Is the content relevant and reliable for your research topic or assignment?

  • Is the content relevant to your topic - or is it on a related topic but not 100% relevant?
  • Is the source scholarly, or is it more popular source such as a trade or general interest magazine?
  • Can you identify the format, eg article, government report, website, conference proceedings?
  • Is it a primary or secondary source?
  • Does the author provide a balanced point of view, with references clearly acknowledged for transparency

To evaluate a journal article's author you need to ask what are the author's credentials?

  • What is the author's reputation among his/her peers?
  • Have they been cited in articles, books or bibliographies.
  • Institutional affiliation (where does he or she work?)
  • Is the author associated with a reputable, unbiased institution or organization?       

To evaluate a website containing data or other information you need to ask the following questions?

  • Is it commercial, trade, institutional, other?
  • What is the organizational mission?
  • Is it known for quality and/or scholarly publications?
  • What are its basic values or goals?

What's the intent of the website (to persuade, to sell you something, to inform, etc.)?

  • What is the domain (.edu, .org, .com, etc.)? This might provide a clue.  
  • Are there advertisements on the website? How do they relate to the topic being covered (e.g., an advertistement for Vitamin D supplements next to an article about Vitamin D deficiency)?
  • Is the author presenting fact or opinion?
  • Who might benefit from a reader believing this website?
  • Who is the intended audience?
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