Critical Thinking, Part 8: Sources Yet Again!

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The following list aids in the evaluation of sources. It is named the CRAAP Test, and it is a powerful tool to use in critical thinking and the evaluation of arguments.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of-date for the topic?
  • Are the links and books obtainable and functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information to the topic

  • Does the information relate to the topic or answer the question at hand?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources in addition to and/or before looking at this one?
  • If the source has an argument whose topic is not entirely relevant to the one at hand, can the argument be adapted?
  • Are there citations of the article relevant to the article itself? Are there counterarguments in the literature?

Authority: the credibility of the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/sponsor?
  • Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are they?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
  • Is the author qualified to write this article or subject?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Is the author affiliated with a particular organization, institution, etc.?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of content

  • From where does the information come?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify the information in another source? How does it compare with information from other sources?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
    • Of course, my blog would never have any of those. 😉
  • Is the information reliable?
  • Is it too broad? Too shallow?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information?
  • Do the author/sponsors make their intentions or purposes clear?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda? Advertisement? Argumentative? Informative? Does material inform? Explain? Persuade?
  • Is the point of view objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, social, economic, or personal biases? Who benefits from the information/argument?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Are conclusions drawn with sufficient evidence?

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Additionally, a powerful tool to analyze sources is known as an OPCVL. Standing for Origin, Purpose, Content, Value, and Limitations, an OPCVL facilitates a rigorous and systematic analysis and evaluation of sources. In what follows, I briefly outline what should be included within an OPCVL.

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Origin

Questions to consider:

  • Who created it?
  • Who is the author?
  • When was it created?
  • When/where/who published it?
  • Is there anything we know about the author that is pertinent to our evaluation?
  • What type of source is it?

Purpose

Questions to consider:

  • Why does this document exist?
  • Who is the target audience and how can we tell?
  • Why did the author choose this format?
  • What does the document “say”?
  • Can it tell you more than is on the surface?

Remember: One-sided sources help us understand people’s views.

Content

Questions to consider:

  • When does this take place?
  • Who is involved? (People, Leaders, Nations, Events, Places, Arguments)
  • Where is this?
  • What are the main points made? Assumptions? Implications? Conclusions?
  • What impact/significance does this have and on whom or what?
  • Why did this take place/happen?

Value

Questions to consider:

  • What can you tell about the author from this piece?
  • What can you tell about the time period?
  • Under what circumstances was this piece created and how does this piece reflect those circumstances?
  • Does the author represent a particular side of a controversy or event?
  • What can we tell about the author’s perspectives from the piece?
  • How wide-ranging is this source? Does it have sufficient breadth?
  • How deep and rigorous is the source? Does it have sufficient depth?
  • Does it contain novel arguments or points? Does it present criticisms of others’ arguments or points?

The following image provides some good examples of values.

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Limitations

Questions to consider:

  • What part of the story can we not tell from this document?
  • Are significant counterarguments not addressed?
  • Are assumptions not made explicit? Are certain claims not sufficiently justified?
  • How could we verify the content of the piece?
  • Does this piece inaccurately reflect anything about the time period?
  • What does the author leave out and why does he/she leave it out (if you know)?
  • What is purposely not addressed?

The following picture provides a good list of limitations one can analyze. This list specifically concerns a historical source, however it can easily be adapted to philosophical sources.

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Below are some very helpful pictures regarding OPCVL. I hope this post is instructive regarding the analysis and evaluation of sources — a crucial component of thinking critically and evaluating arguments!

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Author: Joe

Email: NaturalisticallyInclined@gmail.com

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