|Remember RAT When Evaluating Source Content|
When including source content in your essays, you want to use such great sources of information you can brag about them. You want your readers to be blown away by the quality of your included experts. You want your classmates to exclaim, “Wow!” and your professors to shout “A+ + + + +” when they read your paper and look at your exceptionally impressive list of sources.
However, there is so much information on the Internet, and so many misinformed experts, how can you tell the real deal from the duds?
First and foremost, don’t be a frightened little mouse when it comes to adding source evidence to your essays. Be a big RAT: Keep in mind the principles of relevance, authority, and timeliness, and you’ll be able to evaluate and incorporate source content with confidence.
R is for Relevance
Before adding any content to your essays, remember the “R” in RAT. It stands for relevance. Another way to say relevance is “applicability.” Ask yourself if the information in the source is applicable to the specific argument or claim you make in your thesis and topic sentences. Are the writer’s arguments and examples pertinent to your topic? Can you use the writer’s ideas to back up your own ideas? Can you use the writer’s ideas as a starting point from which to argue an opposing view? If so, skim the source. Carefully read the writer’s arguments or claims, and look for the main idea of each paragraph. Carefully read for key words. If your source is relevant to your paper, read it through carefully and take notes. If it is not, move on to another source.
A is for Authority
The “A” in RAT stands for authority, and it is your responsibility to check up on your source writer’s authority. Google the source writer’s name, and look to see if he or she has written other articles on the same topic. Check your library’s subscription databases to look for records of peer-reviewed articles by the same author. Check to see if the writer is published in trustworthy publications or questionable publications. Check to see if the writer is quoted by others. After checking up on the author, decide if you can brag about your source writer. If you can, read the source carefully and take notes. If you cannot, move on to another source.
T is for Timeliness
For some topics, the timeliness or publication date of an article is just as important as its content. For example, if your essay is a discussion of current trends in hairstyling, you wouldn’t want to use a source from 1960 to back up your argument that one of today’s most popular hairstyles is the beehive. Unless you were writing in an obviously satirical manner, that would be an irresponsible use of information. Additionally, if you were writing about the features of the newest smartphone, you couldn't possibly use a source more than a few months old, because even after a few months, your information would be out of date! Therefore, when evaluating source content, make sure you remember the “T” in RAT, which is timeliness. If your source is timely, read it carefully and take notes. If it is not, move on to another source.
Each and every time you begin to look for source content for your essays, be sure you are remembering RAT as a way to help you evaluate your content before you choose to use it in an essay. Check each of your sources for relevance, authority, and timeliness.
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