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ENGWR 300 (online) - Professor Blunk (Spring 2020): Evaluating Sources

What Should I Do on This Page?

Read the content in the "Finding Authoritative Sources on the Internet" box, then watch the Critically Evaluating Websites video.  The information on this page is critical for helping you learn how to find credible online sources, so strive to make sure you have a firm understanding of the content before you move on.  Remember, if you have any questions about how to evaluate online sources, you can email me or contact any one of the ARC librarians.

After watching the video, for practice, use what you learned about evaluating sources to complete the Evaluation Exercise on "gun control".

To get a sense of how you might use the various sources you'll encounter during the research process, read about the B.E.A.M method and watch the corresponding video.  Remember, if you have any questions about the material on this page, you're welcome tocontact me.

Finding Authoritative Sources on the Internet

In the video below, you'll learn tips that will help you find credible internet sources appropriate for an academic assignment. 

Before you watch the video, read the following for an brief introduction to some of the essential keywords and concepts that will be introduced:

  • Currency - when considering the currency of a site, you'll examine the date it was updated and/or when the content was published.
  • Relevancy - to determine relevancy, you'll want to consider whether the source is relevant or appropriate for your topic.
  • Objectivity - an objective source will strive to report from an unbiased and impartial or neutral position.
  • Authority - an authoritative source should be written by a qualified author whose credentials or experience support their credibility to report on the topic being written about.
  • Quality - the quality or professionalism of the site may be an indicator of its credibility.

Near the end of the video, you'll hear the narrator say, "there's not single indicator of the quality or credibility of a website", and that is definitely true.  In order to find credible sources, it's imperative that you use your critical thinking skills and the terms above to evaluate the sources you discover before using them in your research.

Remember, if you have any questions about this process or the information in this video, please contact me.

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Libraries

Evaluation Exercise

These three websites were found with the same Google search: "gun control".  Briefly look at each one and then answer the following question:
Which of the websites below would you MOST likely to use for a research project?

The BEAM Method

If you're wondering what kind of sources you should use to conduct your research, the B.E.A.M might help clarify how best to use and incorporate the different types of sources you will discover in your research.  

Background - these are sources that provide an overview and the core facts about your topic.  Encyclopedias are a great resource for supplying this kind of information.

Exhibit - exhibit sources provide evidence or are examples of what is being analyzed.  Interviews, a poem or novel, scholarly articles, etc. are examples of sources that could be used in this way.

Argument - these types of sources include information from other authors that you agree or disagree with.  These sources essentially help explain why you agree or disagree with the idea(s) those authors have presented.

Method - method sources can be used as models to analyze the issue you're interested in.  For example, you might use the methods, definitions, or conclusions used on a national study about employer's access to employee's password-protected social media accounts to argue in favor of the hiring methods you practice as a small business owner.  

Sources used:

Hunter College Libraries: How to Use a Source: The BEAM Method

Portland State University Libraries: Using your sources: The BEAM Research Model