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Information Literacy Tutorial: Evaluate Resources

SCARAB Rubric and Tips

A printable version of our SCARAB Rubric, along with useful definitions and tips.

Why We Need to Evaluate Sources of Information

Why won't my teacher let me use Wikipedia?  What's wrong with blogs?  What is peer-reviewed?  What constitutes a scholarly journal?  These are some questions you might have as you begin to delve into your college research assigments. 

There is such a plethora of information available at our fingertips these days.  This makes finding information both easier in some ways, but also overwhelming in other ways.  Now, more than ever, we need to be able to determine the quality of the information we are using.  The quantity is definitely there, but the quality can sometimes be missing.  It helps to have some concrete criteria to use to evaluate sources of information.  It also helps to understand a little bit about how information is created and that not all information is created equal.

SCARAB

SCARAB is a source evaluation rubric created by the MCC librarians to help students evaluate sources of information.  Each letter in SCARAB represents one of the criteria to use in evaluating information.

Substance

  • this refers to how in-depth the information is and the audience it is geared towards

Currency

  •   this refers to the date the information was published.  A current date of publication may be more important for certain topics (such as technology and medicine) than for other topics (literary criticism and historical events).

Authority

  • this refers to the author and publisher of the information.  You want to determine the author's expertise on the topic and verify their credentials.  This information might be readily available, or you might have to do some digging and "google" the author's name.  You want to make sure the publisher is reputable.

  Relevance

  • this refers to how useful the source is for your information need, in other words, how well it matches your topic.  This will often be the first criteria you will evaluate, because if a source is not very useful for your topic, there is no need to look at it any further.

Accuracy

  • Is the information presented true and verifiable?  One indicator of accuracy is if the source includes references or a bibliography.

Bias

  •   The first thing to determine is whether the purpose of the source is to inform or persuade.  If it is persuasive, is it a good argument that is well-supported, uses sources, and is fair.  This can be very tricky to judge.  Even a publisher can be biased.  For example, there are certain periodicals that tend to be more conservative and others that are more liberal.  The articles published in these periodicals will reflect the publishers' bias.  A research study can also be biased in the way that the author interprets the data. Detecting bias takes time and practice.

Research Tip: Free Web vs. Fee Web

The Free Web is made up of web pages you can find using Google and other Free web search engines. Some assignments do not allow free web resources. Good material may be found here, but also a lot of information that may be inappropriate for academic writing.  Evaluate carefully!

The Fee Web (also known as the Hidden, Invisible, or Deep Web) includes subscription databases. You'll usually find better information here--including those scholarly and peer-reviewed articles often required--since most database content went through a more rigorous publication process. See also our "Databases by Subject" guide.