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Researching Technical Communications Topics: Evaluating Information

For COMM238, COMM256, and other Technical Communications classes

Use Your RADAR

The RADAR Framework is a tool to help you remember the criteria used to evaluate the quality, credibility, and relevance of any source of information. Keep these principles in mind when considering the inclusion of any source - whether print, online or other media - in your assignment.

Relevance – How relevant is the information to your assignment?

  • Consider your audience and compare the information source with a variety of sources
  • Ask yourself if the information relates to your topic or answers your research question

Authority – Who/what is the source (author, publisher) of the information?

  • Check the credentials or qualifications of the author
  • Consider the affiliation of the author or publisher

Date – When was the information first published or last updated?

  • Consider if you need the most recent information on your topic
  • A general rule of thumb is to use content created in the last 5 years, but older content may be appropriate depending on your topic.

Appearance – What does the source of information look like?

  • Consider the way the information is presented: articles supported by evidence and citations are more credible, while editorials, opinion pieces, and blog posts may be more subjective.
  • Check who/what the author references and evaluate the quality of the information they use to support their argument

Reason – Why does the information exist in the first place?

  • Consider if the information was created to inform, teach, entertain, persuade, sell something, or for some other reason.
  • Are there any clear biases in the information? To what degree is the information objective and impartial?

RADAR is not a yes/no test, or a be-all and end-all guide. Use RADAR to consider the relative quality of information as you are searching.


Using "Bad" Information

Biased, opinionated or even false information can be included in a research project to effectively highlight dissenting opinions or identify commonly held errors. The reliability of such information, however, should always be clearly identified and placed in context with more balanced sources.

If you are unsure about the quality of a source, don’t hesitate to contact the library for help!

Evaluating Technical Information

When evaluating a piece of information, determine how you will use that information in your report. How do you plan on drawing from the author to strengthen your argument or recommendation?

Authority is important with businesses and corporations. If there is no author for a piece of information, the authority is the publishing body or the business putting the information out.

Similarly, determine the reason for publication. Is the business trying to promote a product? Discuss a success or failure? Publish company information?


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