I am writing this as I am prepping for a new semester. The first thing on the agenda is to give students the tools they will need to conduct quality research for throughout the semester, with the hopes that they see the value in finding legitimate sources and continue to go the extra step in their everyday life (cough, cough, fake news.) Did anyone else notice that we replaced the term “propaganda” with “fake news”? Does the term “fake news” sting less when we realize we have been bamboozled? Anywhoooooo, here are a few research tips and tricks to avoid bamboozlement and become a research wiz.
1.The C.R.A.A.P. Test
Bask in acronym perfection. Once you conduct this test you can evaluate the legitimacy or relevance of a source or flush it down the toilet.
- Currency: How recent was the source published? Has it been updated?
- Relevance: Does this source relate to your question or topic? Who is the intended audience? Kids? Not for you. Move on.
- Authority: Who is the author or sponsor of the material? Are they qualified? Do they have credentials? Can you find information on the author or publisher? Does the author show their sources (best case scenario, but not always required). Always check the “about” section of any website you are using.
- Accuracy: Is the content supported by evidence? Is it biased? Can you find other sources that confirm the information?
- Purpose: What is the intention of the source (commercial, entertainment, news, persuade)? Is this an opinion or based in fact? Is it supported by evidence?
- Check out this C.R.A.A.P. Test worksheet created by CSU, Chico Meriam Library for more details
2. Use Google with Purpose
Follow these research tips to filter the crap (see what I did there) out of a general Google search with these tips.
- Filter answer results to websites that only end in .edu (education), .gov (government), or .org (organization)-subject all to the C.R.A.A.P. Test. Sometimes you will come across a student project on a .edu site (won’t pass the “authority” portion of the C.R.A.A.P. Test) and some organizations have a specific agenda and potential bias (always check the “about” section of any webpage you visit to verify their purpose).
- In the Google search bar type or copy and paste these prefixes:
Pro Research Tip: Once inside a source on the computer you can search specific key words by pressing “Ctrl-F” a search bar will appear and you can type in key words.
3. Other Search Engines: USA.gov
- According to the site, USA.gov is the U.S. government’s official web portal to all federal, state, and local government web resources and services.
- Great for research about political topics
- Don’t forget toe C.R.A.A.P. Test!
4. Fact Checking Websites
Don’t shoot the messenger. When researching a topic you are passionate about it can be tempting to throw out information that does not agree with you. Fact check it. The best options are non-profit and non-partisan sites.
- Factcheck.org is a great place to find up to date information on current stories you see in the news
- Politifact.com to see if politicians are telling the truth, if they are telling half truths, or if their pants are completely engulfed in flames
- Snopes.com usually tackles the more outlandish stories circulating the internet and modern urban myths
These cumbersome relics still hold valuable information. You cannot “Ctrl-F” search them, but if you look in the back of the book you will find the ancestor of the search command, the Index. You can even C.R.A.A.P. Test books! There is a certain satisfaction finding information in a book that internet searches cannot compete with. Try it!
If you are a student make sure to utilize the research databases your school provides. You will miss them when you stop paying tuition.
Do you have any research tips or tricks? Share them in the comments!