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Student Success

Useful information to help you succeed as a student at Webster University

Popular vs. Scholarly

Scholarly articles are sometimes also called "peer-reviewed" because they are evaluated by other scholars or experts in the field.  A scholarly article is commonly longer than a magazine article.

The clearest and most reliable indicator of a scholarly article is the presence of references or citations.

Many of our databases allow you to limit your search to just scholarly articles. This is a useful feature, but it is not 100% accurate in terms of what it includes and what it excludes. You should still check to see if the article has references or citations.

Think Critically

How to Identify Bias

Why should we check the bias of information on a web page?

Would you trust information unsupported by facts or logical reasoning? A biased author may not pay attention to all the facts or develop a logical argument to support his or her opinions.

Bias is when a statement reflects a partiality, preference, or prejudice for or against a person, object, or idea. Much of what you read and hear expresses a bias. Bias is when a writer or speaker uses a selection of facts, choice of words, and the quality and tone of description, to convey a particular feeling or attitude. Its purpose is to convey a certain attitude or point of view toward the subject. As you read or listen to biased materials, keep the following questions in mind:

  • What facts has the author omitted?
  • What additional information is necessary?
  • What words create positive or negative impressions?
  • What impression would I have if different words had been used?

Biased information tries to change your mind, how you think. Being aware of bias and knowing how to identify, analyze, and assimilate biased information properly is a skill to be treasured. It puts you in charge of how you think instead of the print and media world. (see Cuesta College Critically Evaluating the Logic and Validity of Information)

 What are some indicators of bias on a web page?

  • The language of the document is often extreme; statements have all or nothing connotations.
  • The argument appeals more to the emotions than to logic.
  • Things are worded with the intent to oversimplify or over generalize.
  • The author wishes to present a limited view of the topic.

You should expect bias on webpages that are dedicated to selling you something. Additionally, webpages dedicated to controversial topics are likely to have a bias.

Questions to keep in mind as you seek indicators of bias:

  • What is the author's political point of view?
  • What does the author stand to gain?
  • Who is paying for the website?
  • Does the author present alternate points of view?
    • If so, are those views presented objectively, or with scorn

Authored by Lora K. Kaisler and Dennis O'Connor of the 21st Century Information Fluency Project.  Illinois Schools. 

Evaluating Sources... are they CRAAP?

How can you tell if information you find is trustworthy? Sometimes information can be unreliable, especially when dealing with onlline sources. If you're not sure about a source, just ask yourself, is it CRAAP?

The CRAAP Test is a list of questions that can help you more effectively evaluate information:

Currency - the timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information first published?
  • For websites, when was the page last updated?
  • Does this topic require up-to-date information (like medicine and science)?

Relevance - the usefulness of the information to your needs.

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Is the information the right level (not too basic or too advanced)? 
  • Have you considered other possible sources before selecting this one?

Authority - the source of the information.

  • What are the author's credentials/qualifications?
  • Is there an organization sponsoring the research?
  • Does the author provide any contact information?

Accuracy - the reliability and truthfulness of the information.

  • Does the author provide evidence to support his or her claims?
  • Has the information been reviewed by an editor?
  • Is the language and tone neutral and unbiased?

Purpose - the reason the information exists in this format.

  • Is the information meant to inform, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their purpose/intention clear?
  • Are there political, cultural, religious, or personal biases?

The CRAAP test was developed by staff at Meriam Library, California State University, Chico