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UNIV 101 - Academic Advising Seminar

Currency

Currency, or date, is important to note because information can quickly become obsolete.  Supporting your research with facts that have been superseded by new research or recent events weakens your argument.  Not all assignments require the most current information; older materials can provide valuable information such as a historical overview of your topic.  In some disciplines, the date of the source is less important (e.g. History), while in others it is very important (e.g. Science or Technology).

How do you know if timeliness is an important factor for your information? Ask yourself:

  • When was the information published or last updated?
  • Have new articles been published on your topic?
  • Are links or references to other sources up-to-date?
  • Is your topic in an area that changes rapidly, like technology or science?
  • Is the information obsolete?

Relevance

Relevance is important because you are expected to support your ideas with pertinent information.  A source detailing Einstein's marriage would not be very relevant to a paper about his scientific theories.

How do you know if your source is relevant? Ask yourself some of these questions about the source:

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Does the information meet the stated requirements for the assignment? 
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
  • Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?
  • Is the information focused on the geographical location you are interested in?

Authority

How do you know if your source is an authority? Ask yourself some of these questions about the source:

  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or a prominent organization?
  • Can you find information about the author in reference books or on the Internet?
  • Do other books or articles on the same research topic cite the author?
  • Is the publisher of the information source reputable?

Accuracy

Accuracy is important because errors and untruths distort a line of reasoning. When you present inaccurate information, you undermine your own credibility.

How do you know if your sources are accurate?  Ask the following questions about your sources:

  • Are there statements you know to be false?
  • Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published?
  • Do the citations and references support the author's claim? Are the references correctly cited?
  • What do other people have to say on the topic? Is there general agreement among subject experts?
  • If applicable, is there a description of the research method used? Does the method seem appropriate and well-executed?

Purpose

Purpose, or reason for writing, is important because books, articles, and web pages exist to serve a purpose. They can educate, entertain, or sell a product or point of view.  Some sources may be frivolous or commercial in nature, providing inaccurate, false, or biased information.  Other sources are more ambiguous about any potential partiality.  Varied points of view can be valid as long as they are based on good reasoning and careful use of evidence. 

How do you determine your source's purpose? Ask these questions:

  • Why did the the author or publisher make this information available?
  • Is there obvious and/or extreme bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
  • Does the author omit any important facts or data that might disprove their claim?
  • Does the author use strong emotional language?