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Agriculture and Bioresources 492/494: Tutorials for Finding and Evaluating Information Sources

This guide contains two modules designed to assist 492/494 AgBio students in contributing to the scholarly conversation in their fields, and finding and retrieving relevant and credible information.

Determining the Quality of Information

While SIFT was a quick way of thinking to help you sort through online resources, STA3R is a more thorough way to evaluate sources.



STA3R stands for self-awareness, timeliness, authority, accuracy, argument, and relevance.

1. Self-Awareness: check yourself

  • Examine your own perspective and ensure you are seeking out information that represents alternative perspectives and worldviews.
  • Ensure you are not seeking or favouring sources that only confirm your existing beliefs (avoid confirmation bias).
  • Get uncomfortable. Read from sources across the spectrum (even if you do not agree with such sources); this will help ensure you are aware of the various sides of a debate/issue.

2. Timeliness: how current is the information

  • When was the information created, published or updated?
  • Is it recent enough to be relevant to your topic or discipline? Sometimes you are required to use recently published material; sometimes you must use historical documents.

3. Authority: who created the information?

  • Who is the creator/author/source/publisher of the information? What are the author's credentials or affiliations?
  • Is the author's expertise related to the subject? Are they an authority on the topic through education, experience, or expertise in the field?
  • Whose voices/viewpoints are not being heard?

4. Accuracy: how accurate is the information?

  • Was the information reviewed by others before being published? Does it contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors?
  • What citations or references support the author's claims?
  • Is it fact or opinion? Do the authors leave out important facts or alternative perspectives?

5. Argument: what are the author’s claims?

  • What is the author's position?
  • What reasons does the author give to support their position?
  • Are there any flaws in the author's logic?
  • Do you agree or disagree with the author's argument or perspective? Why?
  • What is your position on this topic?
  • What evidence (i.e. research) can you provide to support your position?

6. Relevance: does the source satisfy your information need?

  • Is the information related to your topic? Does it help you better understand your topic?
  • Is the information at an appropriate depth or level for your assignment?

This information comes from a research guide created by the University Library entitled How to Evaluate Information Sources. Visit the guide for more information about evaluating sources.

Note: What is considered primary, secondary, or tertiary information may vary according to your field of study. When in doubt, ask your professor. In earlier sections of this module, these terms were applied for science disciplines.


STA3R Activity!

Take a look at the STA3R process used to evaluate sources more deeply.

Choose one of these resources and apply the STA3R technique to evaluate it.

Roundup Use

Science and agriculture’s beef with A&W and its fear-based marketing

Hartmann, C., & Siegrist, M. (2017). Consumer perception and behaviour regarding sustainable protein consumption: A systematic review. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 61, 11-25.

What is a GMO?