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Concordian International School: Secondary Library: Evaluate Sources

Access to Library Services and Resources

Evaluating Sources

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"Media Literacy" -- Fake News & Fact Checking

Fact Checker Sites

Sometimes bias is good, because you want to provide both sides of an issue. But there are facts and then there are lies

Common Sense Media

5 Ways to Spot Fake News

TED Talk: How to Choose Your News

OPVL - Resource Evaluation Tool - Especially Useful for Primary Sources

Analysis of Resources: Origin Purpose Value Limitations

OPVL is an effective tool to analyze primary and secondary source documents.

Origin

  Origin is where the source comes from.

  • Is this a primary or secondary source?
  • Who is the author or artist?
  • What date it was written or finished?
  • In which country the author or artist was born?
  • Where was it created?
  • What type of sources was it when it  was first presented (newspaper, book, letter, performance, display, speech, etc.)?
  • What was the historic context in which the source was created?
  • Is there anything known about the author that is important to know to evaluate it? 

Purpose

Purpose is where you have to put yourself in the author or artist's shoes. The purpose should relate to the origin of the source.

  • What do you think the author was trying to communicate?
  • What ideas or feelings was the author trying to express or make others feel?
  • Why did the author create this document?  Why does it exist?
  • Who was the intended audience of this source? Who was it created for?
  • What is the obvious message of the source? What other messages are there that might not be obvious?
  • The purpose is especially important when it comes to pieces of propaganda as sources.

Value

Value is how valuable this source is. Basically it's linked to the amount of bias in the source:  the more bias = the less valuable (usually). Primary sources are obviously more valuable than secondary/tertiary ones.

  • Why is this source important in the study of this topic?
  • What is an important quote from this source?
  • What value does this source have that might not be available elsewhere?
  • What can one tell about the author of this source?
  • Who does this source represent?
  • What was going on in history when this source was created?
  • What new information does this piece bring to the understanding of the topic?
  • How does this source help me better understand my research question?
  • How does this source help me better understand the topic?

Limitations

Limitations is also linked to bias, each source will be at least a little biased and thus they are limited by that. Do not state bias alone as a limitation. All sources have bias.

  • Why is this source biased?
  • How is this source biased?
  • Has the source has been translated from the original? (i.e., Hitler's diary entry was  translated into English by a historian and you're using the historian's book as a source)  If so, then the language difference will be another source of inaccuracy and a limitation.
  • What information was not available to the author when the source was created?
  • Did the author get the information from a reliable source?
  • Does the author have reason to emphasize certain facts over other facts?  How might the source be different if it were presented to another audience?\
  • Does the author have personal involvement in the event? How might this effect the source?
  • What specific information might the author has chosen to leave out? Why?
  • Does the author concede that a certain point as is inconvenient for the author to admit?
  • How might the historical context in which the document was created influence the interpretation of the document?
  • What is the length of time between the creation of this source and the topic or event it relates to? How is this time difference important to our study of the topic?
  • What should you be cautious about when using this source?

Thank you to Florida International University!

The following grid can help you understand OPVL by various types of sources

Type of Document

Origin

Purpose

Value

Limitation

Diary

Primary, by author for author, rarely published

To keep memories for later (sometimes with eye to publication)

Eyewitness to event and usually written immediately or shortly after occurred, rarely lies to oneself

Only one person’s view, there will be perspective issues, may be intended for publication therefore can even lie to oneself

Reminiscence

Primary, by author or interviewee

To offer an eyewitnesses’ perspective on an event

Eyewitness

Length of time between events and recollection can lead to loss of info, or changing of story, always perspective issues to be considered

Monograph

Usually by expert (often academic historian)

To educate colleagues, students, and the public (can be for monetary gain or promotion file)

Usually many years of primary research in archives and thorough knowledge of secondary works on topic

Always perspective issues, usually not an eyewitness, can err deliberately or accidently, not vey useful for quick overview since it will contain many pages of extraneous issues

General Text

Secondary, usually done by a panel of experts on country or topic

To educate students

Offers quick overview for student seeking quick information

Usually NOT an expert on every topic in text so there may be gaps and errors, may be too brief

Cartoon

Primary, done by artist for public at that time

To educate, entertain, and often to sell newspapers or magazines

Offer at least one person’s perspective on issue of the time, event

Don’t know how widespread it is, often exaggeration is used for comic effect

Speech

Primary

For public usually

Offers official view of speaker, it is what audience hears

May not be real views of the speaker, speeches are designed to sway opinion

Internal Memo

Primary

For internal examination amongst officials or government departments

Usually do not lie, so it is official view (as a speech) but private thoughts are often given too

Do not know what outsiders know, only what officials are saying to each other, may be fabricated

Thank you to Florida International University!

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