Mnemonics for Evaluating Sources

assessing sources, analyzing research sources

UDL 3.4

Mnemonics for Evaluating Sources is a method to be used during the research process in which the teacher guides students in analyzing research sources for several criteria (e.g., relevance, accuracy, currency, bias, and logic) in order to select the best sources for a research project. First, teachers model the process by evaluating a specific source, then provide students with several sources. Next, students practice with teacher support, analyze sources with a graphic organizer, and finally evaluate independently. Students are often told to evaluate sources, but not how, so this strategy provides frameworks for evaluating sources. Using mnemonics designed for the research process (e.g.,CRAAP, SMELL) is effective because students learn the most important criteria (e.g., objectivity, accuracy) for evaluating a source and apply the mnemonic as a reminder when independently evaluating sources in the future, across disciplines.

Implementation Tips

The CRAAP Model
Utilize the acronym “CRAAP” (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) to teach students how to evaluate sources for credibility. With the provided [[ | checklist/questions]], analyze several examples with students before following with opportunities for independent practice with feedback. Students will gain confidence and eventually work toward independent analysis of sources.
Analyze Examples of Reliable vs. Unreliable Sources
Locate several reliable and unreliable sources to use for whole-class analysis.The sources should focus on the same topic for authentic side-by-side comparison. Choose credible, recent sources as exemplars, and biased, inaccurate, or outdated sources as non-examples. Apply a mnemonic to analyze these [[ | climate change sources]]
Mini-Lesson for More Support
Provide additional support in small groups for students who cannot identify unreliable sources. Create a mini-lesson focused on the most misleading type of sources; some sources are meant to intentionally confuse the reader. Structure the lesson using a mnemonic-based graphic organizer or focus on only one criteria at a time.
Thinking Aloud with a Mnemonic
Think aloud as you use a mnemonic to model evaluating a source. Mention whatever crosses your mind while examining a website using CRAAP or SMELL. You might say something like, *“Hmmm, the source of information is hard to find. Why don’t they want me to know more about the author?”*
Apply the SMELL Test
Model the [[ | SMELL]] test when sources might be intentionally misleading, particularly online sources by groups with an agenda. Analyze the **S**ource and **M**otivation for sharing the information. Focus particularly on how **L**ogic is used to present **E**vidence and if any information is purposefully **L**eft out.
Focus on A for “Authority”
After modeling source analysis with the mnemonic (CRAAP), focus on one letter and practice the skill until evaluation becomes automatic. For Authority, pull several biographies of authors (individuals or groups) to compare. Discuss different kinds of author qualifications, the role of editing and peer review, and define the term “expert.”
Focus on C for “Currency”
Discuss with students the importance of timeliness and currency, especially online and for scientific research. When was the source published? Does it present the most up-to-date scientific information or have things changed since publication? Has the article been checked and updated with the latest research? Are all website links active?


Introducing the CRAAP Mnemonic
A teacher shares two research sources (example and non-example) with the class, asking *“Is this a credible source? Why or why not?”* Students discuss with partners. *“We’ll use a mnemonic with embedded questions to determine if a source is credible.”* The teacher defines each letter in the mnemonic using visuals (e.g. handouts, whiteboard) and refers to the example and non-example, thinking aloud to model evaluating the source with the mnemonic.
Small Group Mini-lesson
A group of students struggling to differentiate reliable and unreliable sources meets with the teacher. The teacher shares a source (e.g., online or printout)) and a CRAAP graphic organizer for notetaking. First, students highlight the publication date and/or check links on a website to determine if the source is current. Next, the teacher follows the mnemonic (Relevant, Authoritative) and shows student where to find the author’s credentials to determine an author’s expertise.
SMELL in Science Class
A science class is evaluating research sources about controversial topics like stem cell research. *“We will evaluate your list of research sources using the SMELL test, a mnemonic that helps us remember the most important criteria for evaluating sources. Who provides the **S**ource of information? What is their **M**otivation? Do they support their argument with **E**vidence? Is the argument **L**ogical or merely persuasive? Is any information deliberately **L**eft out?”*

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