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Fine & Performing Arts

Iona University Libraries Research Guide on Fine & Performing Arts


From vocabulary to form, all writing is tailored to reach an intended audience for a particular purpose. When evaluating and choosing research sources, it is crucial to differentiate between different types of sources (primary vs. secondary, scholarly vs. popular) and understand how these different kinds of sources can be strategically used to build a strong research paper. It is also important to understand how to determine a source's credibility, biases, and intentions so that you can feel confident in using sources as evidence.

Methods for Evaluating Sources

Lateral reading is done when you apply fact-checking techniques by leaving your initial source and consulting other sources to evaluate the initial source's credibility. You can think of this as “tabbed reading”, moving laterally away from your initial source to sources in other tabs rather than just proceeding “vertically” down the page based on the characteristics of the initial source alone. The video below outlines the lateral reading approach.

Lateral Reading and AI

While you can typically reach a consensus about online sources by searching for a source’s publication, funding organization, author or title, none of these bits of information are available to you when assessing AI output. As a result, it is critical that you read several sources outside the AI tool to determine whether credible, non-AI sources can confirm the information the tool returned. 

Here's how to fact-check something you got from ChatGPT or a similar tool using lateral reading:

  1. Break down an AI-generated response into individual claims. 
  2. Open a new tab and look for supporting pieces of information. Here are some good sources to start with:
    • When searching for specific pieces of information: Google results or Wikipedia
    • When seeing if something exists: Google Scholar, WorldCatLinks to an external site, or Wikipedia
    • Tip: Some things to watch out for – is the AI putting correct information in the wrong context (like when it said that Texas A&M’s tradition was a UMD one)? Is it attributing a fake article to a real author?
  3. Next, think deeper about what assumptions are being made here
    • What did your prompt assume?
    • What did the AI assume?
    • Who would know things about this topic? Would they have a different perspective than what the AI is offering? Where could you check to find out?
  4. Finally, make a judgment call. What here is true, what is misleading, and what is factually incorrect? Can you re-prompt the AI to try and fix some of these errors? Can you dive deeper into one of the sources you found while fact-checking? Remember, you’re repeating this process for each of the claims the AI made – go back to your list from the first step and keep going!"

Text adapted from "Assess Content: Assessing AI-Based Tools for Accuracy" by the University of Maryland under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License Creative Commons

Mike Caufield’s SIFT technique is a reflective technique for evaluating internet sources. For new and rapidly-evolving topics like AI, there may not be many peer-reviewed articles available on your research question. You may also want to evaluate the information you find using an AI tool.

Image of SIFT process: stop, investigate source, find better coverage, and trace claims

Image Credit: Mike Caulfield, 2019. All SIFT information on this page is adapted from his materials under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License Creative Commons

S – Stop

The SIFT method recommends two different crucial stopping points in your internet research:

  1. When you first encounter a website or internet source, stop and consider:

    • Do you know this source?

    • Is this source reputable?

    • Are the claims on this website reputable to the best of your current knowledge?

If you can’t answer these questions, approach the source with caution as you move through the other SIFT steps.

  1. As you move through each step, stop and consider:

    • What is my purpose for seeking this information out?

    • Am I doing a quick scan of internet sources to understand the internet discourse of the day, or am I doing deep academic work?

    • Both are useful kinds of research but involve a different set of questions and practices. The first involves a shallow scan across different sources, the second requires a deeper investigation of each figure, quote, etc.

I – Investigate the Source

  1. Who is the author?
    • What are their credentials?
    • What have they previously written on this topic?
  2. What is this source?
    • Is it a newspaper, a blog, or a news aggregator website?
    • Where does this source derive funding?

F – Find Better Coverage

Read laterally across the internet and library resources about this topic.

If you are writing about the prevalence of CTE in former NFL players, do not solely rely on a press release from the NFL about the topic. You can certainly use NFL statements, but be sure to read across medical journals, newspaper sources, and peer-reviewed research articles about CTE before completely forming your research argument around one source.

T – Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media Back to Original Context

Tracing involves pulling apart a resource for claims, quotes, images, videos, etc., and finding the original source. Think of this as swimming upstream, potentially to a better source. To trace:

  • Click on any links to see what sources are being used to construct an argument.
    • Are these sources reputable?
    • Are these sources news aggregators?
    • If a new item, is the source reputable?
  • Check sources in the bibliography if present.
    • Are those sources more academic than the source you are evaluating? Feel empowered to ditch your original source and move on to the linked source.
  • Reverse image search photos used in the source.
  • Search for the original full video of any embedded media.
    • Did the source cut or manipulate the video?
    • Did the article accurately summarize the video? If not, you can deduce the bias of the article and use it accordingly in your own research.

The ROBOT method for evaluating sources applies to information about AI in particular, but can be used for other types of sources as well.

Being AI Literate does not mean you need to understand the advanced mechanics of AI. It means that you are actively learning about the technologies involved and that you critically approach any texts you read that concern AI, especially news articles. 






  • How reliable is the information available about the AI technology?
  • If it’s not produced by the party responsible for the AI, what are the author’s credentials? Bias?
  • If it is produced by the party responsible for the AI, how much information are they making available? 
    • Is information only partially available due to trade secrets?
    • How biased is they information that they produce?
  • What is the goal or objective of the use of AI?
  • What is the goal of sharing information about it?
    • To inform?
    • To convince?
    • To find financial support?
  • What could create bias in the AI technology?
  • Are there ethical issues associated with this?
  • Are bias or ethical issues acknowledged?
    • By the source of information?
    • By the party responsible for the AI?
    • By its users?
  • Who is the owner or developer of the AI technology?
  • Who is responsible for it?
    • Is it a private company?
    • The government?
    • A think tank or research group?
  • Who has access to it?
  • Who can use it?
  • Which subtype of AI is it?
  • Is the technology theoretical or applied?
  • What kind of information system does it rely on?
  • Does it rely on human intervention? 

Text adapted from "The Robot Test" by The LibrAIry under the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License Creative Commons

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Primary sources are original sources of information that have not been interpreted or analyzed, such as poems, diaries, court records, interviews, and oral history projects. Primary materials also include research results generated by experiments, including surveys, fieldwork, or data sets. In the library, you can find primary sources in these databases and by searching for diaries, journals, or interviews in the Iona University Libraries' book collection.

Adapted from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point University Library.

Secondary sources describe or analyze the primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include books, dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and articles that interpret or review research works. Peer-reviewed publications generally fall into this category.

Adapted from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point University Library.

Tertiary sources list, compile, digest, or index primary or secondary sources. Indexes, handbooks, digests, and almanacs generally fall into this category.

Adapted from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point University Library.

Scholarly and Popular Sources

Scholarly sources and popular sources serve different purposes. Popular sources typically provide an overview of events or subjects. Even when popular articles are written by scholars about their field of expertise, popular articles are still written to be understood by a general audience.

Because popular sources are topical they are typically published at a faster rate than scholarly work to pace with popular conversation. If you are looking for a scholarly peer-reviewed article about something that happened yesterday, you will likely not find anything because scholarly publication cycles are slower.

This timeline of the Information Cycle from University of Florida librarian Lisa Campbell uses a timeline of content about the 2017 Women’s March to illustrate the publication process. 

Scholarly sources can include books and academic journal articles. Academic journals and are written by and for faculty, researchers, or scholars, and are often peer-reviewed. They use scholarly or technical language and tend to be longer articles, detailing the research process and findings. Scholarly journals may contain charts and graphs, and they include the full citations of sources.

Front covers of peer-reviewed journals like JAMA

Peer Review is the process of submitting an author's scholarly work or research to a panel of experts in the same field. The experts scrutinize the paper for accuracy and relevance before the article is accepted and published. 

Many of our research databases allow you to use search filters to limit your search to peer-reviewed and/or scholarly journals.

Popular sources can include magazines, newspapers, TV and movies, webpages, podcasts, and social media. They are created for a general audience. Popular sources rarely give full citations for sources. 

Images of 12 magazine covers

Reading Scholarly Articles

The following resources explain how to strategically read scholarly articles: 

What is Mis-, Dis-, and Malinformation?

When looking at information on the internet, think over the information you read. Is it objectively false? Who benefits from this narrative being spread? Who could be harmed by this narrative? Remain curious and critical, and use the chart below to understand the kinds of disordered information floating around the internet.

Two circles labelled Falseness and Intent to Harm overlap. In the Falseness circle is misinformation; the intent to harm circle has Malinformation. Disinformation sits in the overlap of falseness and intent to harm.

Image Credit: First Draft News “Understanding Information Disorder,”

  • Misinformation: Misinformation can be as innocuous as posting incorrect information. It’s typically a user error that benefits no one and is detached from a larger political or economic project. It could be someone posting “2 + 2 = 5”; it is false but has no clear intent to harm any person or group.

  • Disinformation: Disinformation is both intentionally false and meant to cause harm. It is often motivated by the desire to make money, have greater political influence, or sow chaos for chaos’s sake. The rumor that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy for the Soviets is one historical example of disinformation intended to heighten tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We constantly swim in disinformation online because people can monetize our anger, fear, and support. Reflect on your capacity to confirm, refute, or believe the information you encounter online before engaging, and certainly before citing, the source in your research paper.

  • Malinformation: Malinformation is true, but the sharing of it is meant to cause harm. Harm is derived from either the true statement being shared out of context or at a particularly vulnerable point for the malinformation target. A post about unseating the British monarchy because of the offshore investments revealed in the 2017 Paradise Papers would be malinformation. While the Paradise Papers revealed that many members of the British monarchy had tax-evasive offshore investments, the post is intended to harm the British monarchy, not to inform people about tax malfeasance.

As the chart shows, these categories are fluid. Disinformation can become misinformation if something is proven wrong, but people keep posting. Malinformation can become disinformation with enough social media virality, shifting the initial narrative.

Resources for Evaluation

Fact Checking Sites

  • - Annenberg Public Policy Center’s nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.
  • Politifact - PolitiFact is a fact-checking website that rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics. PolitiFact is run by editors and reporters from the Tampa Bay Times, an independent newspaper in Florida.
  • SciCheck - Focuses exclusively on false and misleading scientific claims that are made by partisans to influence public policy.
  • All Sides - Provides multiple angles on the same story.

Image Checking Sites

Web History Checking Site

  • Wayback Machine - Web archive that captures websites over time and can be used to verify content history and edits.