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CAAMP-PADL Source Evaluation: Purpose


Page header stating purpose


Every author has an intended purpose for their work. For example, what is the purpose of the news? To stay informed on current events. What is the purpose of science fiction novels? To entertain. What about scholarly peer-reviewed articles? To present recent research findings to other scholars in the field. 

There are numerous reasons that an author might write a work. These are good categories to consider: 

Informational: To provide knowledge, facts, data, or information about a specific topic. 

Persuasive: To persuade readers to adopt a particular viewpoint, to take action, or to challenge held beliefs or behaviors. 

Entertainment: To engage the reader's imagination or to provide enjoyment. 

Expressive and/or Reflective:  Authors express their own thoughts, feelings, emotions, and experiences. Reflective writing incorporates these concepts, but also includes introspective elements that provoke internal or external dialogue. 

Instructional: Step-by-step guides that provide how-to knowledge, with the goal of completing a specific task. 

When selecting resources, choose materials that have a similar purpose to your goals. For example, if you are writing a scientific literature review, choose scholarly materials over news or magazine sources. 

Guiding questions

  • Why did the author write this work? 
    • This question can help you choose one of the categories listed above, among others. 
  • Are there any obvious conflicts of interest that confound the author's writing? 
    • At the end of most journal articles, the authors should state whether there is any known conflict of interest. Reviewing this section can shed light on any potential conflicts that may undermine the credibility of the work. 
  • What are the author's main claims? Are the author's claims supported by multiple sources? 
    • After reading the work, you should be able to identify the author's primary claims. If the author's aim or writing is unclear, consider using a more accurate resource. 
    • If the author's goal is to inform, then multiple sources should be cited in the work. 

Misinformation and Disinformation

While many authors write helpful and informative creditable resources, some authors intentionally write and disseminate false information. This is known as disinformation. 

  • Disinformation: "False information spread in order to deceive people" (Cambridge Dictionary). 
    • Disinformation is intentionally false information spread to cause harm. Disinformation is motivated by many factors, including the desire for financial gain, to gain political influence, or  to purposefully create chaos. 
    • Disinformation, sometimes also called "fake news," is not a new phenomenon. On September 28, 1738, the Boston News-leader published a false news story about a supposed Native American uprising on Nantucket Island (Pope, 2017). 
  • Misinformation: "Wrong information, or the fact that people are misinformed" (Cambridge Dictionary). 
    • Misinformation is  information that has a mistake or error, or that is simply misleading, and is presented as a fact. Misinformation is believing that something is accurate when it is not. 
    • In many circumstances, misinformation is not intentional, but if left unchecked, misinformation can cause real harm when untruths circulate as fact.  

The graphic below highlights the 10 different types of disinformation and misinformation. As you are researching, be on the lookout for sources that may not be truthful or that may intentionally present wrong information. 

Informational graphic highlighting 10 common types of mis and dis information

Graphic created by Groundviews, under a CC BY-ND license.