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PHIL 106: Language, Knowledge, and Power: Thinking About Sources

Evaluating Sources

Searching for any information on the internet can be an adventure, but this can be especially true when investigating social phenomena and their relation to power. This page provides tips for evaluating sources for relevance, reliability, and usefulness.

Key Questions:

  • What are the elements of a source that you would examine critically in order to determine its relevance or reliability?
  • What are some of the characteristics that distinguish a popular source from a scholarly source?
  • When is it appropriate to use scholarly sources? When is it appropriate to use popular sources? 
  • Why does it matter what type of sources you use for your research?

The CAARP Test

The CAARP Test

The CAARP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

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  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic or academic discipline?
  • Are any links functional?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Are they the only folks who might write or publish on this topic? 
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?** Do they represent specific gender, sexual, racial, political, social and/or cultural orientations?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

     examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government),
               .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness or plausibility of the information

  • Where does the information come from? Is the author affiliated with any of the authors they're citing?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Is there a bibliography of consulted sources and/or notes? 
  • Does the author privilege some sources over others?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience? Scholars? The general public?
  • Does the source cover the topic thoroughly? If not, do you have other sources you can use to fill in the gaps in coverage? 
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? argument? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Adapted from CSU Chico


Working in small groups, you will examine a set of sources linked on the Padlet below to consider how you would use them as evidence of a real-world language phenomenon.

Evaluating Sources: Language, Knowledge, and Power​

Consider the following questions as you evaluate the source:

  1. Apply the CAARP test to this source. Which elements of CAARP seem most useful for evaluating this source's reliability or usefulness?
  2. What is the purpose of this resource? 
  3. How do you think this source might help you engage with the theoretical texts you've read in class? In other words, what would it contribute to your paper?

Finding Relevant and Reliable Sources

For more tips on evaluating sources, check out the following handout from the Turabian Teacher Collaborative.

Need Help?

This subject guide highlights only a small portion of the many resources available to you.  If you're not finding what you need, don't hesitate to contact Katy!

Katherine "Katy" Curtis, Humanities Librarian
Schedule an appointment
tel: (253) 879-3672
office:  Collins Library 140

If you can't find Katy, remember there are several ways to get help with your research

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