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Criminal Justice Research Guide: Evaluating Sources/SCARAB

A research guide devoted to criminal justice and police science.

Evaluating Sources

Use the rubric to the right as a guide in selecting the best resources. 

Why We Need to Know How to Evaluate Sources

from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

logo for OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab

Source Evaluation SCARAB Rubric

 

 

0

1

2

3

Substance

Who is the intended audience for the information?

Score ____

 

No depth or written for children.

 

Lacking the depth needed for your purpose.

 

Written for the general public.

Written for academics or others in the profession.

Currency

When was the information published, posted,
or updated?

Score ____

 

Publication date, copyright date or posting date cannot be determined.

 

Source is more than 5 years old and has no historical value or is out of date.

 

Source is 3-5 years old or has some historical value. Updates have been noted AND original publication date is listed. Links to outside sources are relevant and functional.

 

Source is less than 3 years old and is a current source of its type on the topic, or it is a primary source.

Authority

Who created the information?

Score ____

 

Author and/or publisher are not named. Author has no expertise or background in the topic. Information has been self-published with no oversight.

 

Author is named, but credentials cannot be verified or credentials are unrelated to topic (e.g., journalist).

 

Author is named and relevant credentials are verifiable, or the publisher is a credible source on this topic.

 

Author’s name & credentials are provided, can be verified, and demonstrate probable expertise on topic. Publisher is reputable.

Relevance

How important is
the information to your needs?

Score ____

 

Source is unrelated to the research topic. Purpose of the information can’t be determined.

 

The source is related to the topic, but the information is not very useful.

 

The information is useful as overview or background.

 

The information is directly related to the topic and can be verified in other quality, reliable sources.

Accuracy

How correct is
the content?

Score ____

 

Content is irrelevant or it contains obvious errors or no sources of content or images are mentioned. 

 

Sources of information are mentioned but not formally cited. No bibliography or links to primary sources.

 

Formally cited or includes links to primary sources or source is specific to the industry.

 

Formally cited and from a peer-reviewed, academic or professional source or it is a primary source. 

Bias

Why does the information exist?

Score ____

 

Source is unfair. Contains extreme or negative language meant to demean or offend. Images are misleading. 

 

Purpose is to persuade but provides no evidence to support the argument.

 

Purpose is to inform.

The source is persuasive and supports arguments well. Language is free of emotion.

 

Purpose is to share research. Issues are examined fairly and/or is primarily fact-based.

 

Total Score:

 

                ______

 

 

 

0 to 6 pts.

Highly questionable source.

 

7 to 10 pts.

Useful for personal purposes, but not appropriate for college-level research.

 

11 to 14 pts.

Possibly a good source for academic research, but better sources may be available.

 

15 to 18 pts.

Excellent source for academic research.

 

Disclaimer: This rubric is intended to provide guidance in evaluating information sources
and may not work for every source or information need.

Some resources may be appropriate for your need but may not score high in every category.

When in doubt, ask your instructor or a Reference Librarian for assistance.

McHenry County College Library - Updated for accessibility April 2017; rev. April 2020

 

In addition to using the rubric, think about the following as you skim your source.

What kind of language is used?

  • Substance – Is it written in a way that anyone can understand (general audience), or does it use high-level language and professional terminology (academic audience)?

When was the information published?

  • Currency – Can you determine an exact publication date? How old is the source?

Who wrote the information?

  • Authority – Is the author an enthusiast in the subject, a journalist, or an expert in that subject? Has the information been reviewed by an editor of any kind?

        ‚ÄčTIP: Look for an About section of the website. Who is behind the content and what is their purpose?

Does the source meet the needs of your research?

  • Relevance – Does it give an overview of your topic, or is it directly related to your research question?

Is the information correct?

  • Accuracy – Does the author cite the sources for the information by linking to the primary source or formally listing references at the end? Can you verify the quality of those sources?

Does the source use extreme language, or does it discuss an issue fairly and support it with cited evidence?

  • Bias – Is the meant to cause an extreme reaction, or to inform and teach?

 

Helpful Terms to Know

Scholarly or Academic Journal

 

  • Disseminates original research within a specific field of study
  • Written by person who conducted the research.
  • Most are peer reviewed (submitted to a process of critical evaluation by experts on the subject.

Trade or Professional Journal

  • Disseminates news and information on a specific business or industry
  • Usually published by a trade or professional association.

Primary source

 

  • A document with original data on a topic.
  • Includes manuscripts, reports of original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings.

Secondary Source

 

  • Any work that is one step removed from the original source.
  • Usually describes, summarizes, analyzes, evaluates, derives from, or is based on primary source materials.

Source: Online Dictionary of Library & Information Science