Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Search "credible sources" in Google and you'll see an astounding 8,000,000 landing pages. Yet, despite the abundance of information, the methods and strategies that you will find can be difficult to remember. This is why I created the ACORN method: a way to remember some of the most important criteria for evaluating sources.
What is the ACORN Method
Each letter in ACORN represents a different aspect of source credibility.
Evaluating a Source's Accuracy
"A" stands for "Accuracy." When reviewing a source, it is important to look out for absolute language, overly general statements, and evidence that may not be trustworthy. Spelling and grammar are often indicators of the author's attention to detail. If there are errors in these areas, there may also be inaccuracies in the content.
Evaluating a Source's Currency
The second letter stands for currency, and what I mean by this is how current the writing is. When was it published and how important is that publication date for the topic we are writing about? For instance, you might be writing about the ancient Egyptians. You might actually want an old source, but if you are writing on something like genetics, you are going to want something much more recent. This is because, our understanding of genetics has changed so rapidly that we are going to need something much more recent.
Evaluating a Source's Objectivity
The next letter stands for objectivity, and what I mean by this is how biased the source is. You want to look for sources that do not contain biased language. If you are seeing words that indicate an author's opinion, you might want to stay away from that source because it might mean that the author is not providing a fair and balanced look of the topic.
Evaluating a Source's Relevance
The next letter stands for relevance. In other words, is the reading that you are looking at relevant to your topic? It might actually be relevant to your topic, but the source could be excluded by your assignment instructions. For instance, at the university level, it is common that instructor will ask their students to only use peer-reviewed articles, a topic for another time.
Evaluating the Author (Name)
The final letter stands for name. Here you want to investigate who the author is. Is the author an expert on the topic you are writing about? Does the author, for instance, have a strong reputation as a researcher? What else have they published? If the author has produced trustworthy work in the past, it is more likely that future sources will be credible.
Why All this Matters
To recap, ACORN is a method to ensure that your sources are credible. Like a stool, essays are only dependent on what they stand on. Likewise, use of untrustworthy tarnish the credibility of writings. Use ACORN to achieve higher grades and protect both the credibility of yourself and what you write.
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