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CMST 220 Public Speaking

This guide is to help you find good topics and evidence for your Informative or Persuasive/Position speeches in CMST& 220: Public Speaking.

What is Good Information? - Investigating Sources, CRAAP test, & scholarly sources

Once you've started to find some research sources, you'll want to choose the information that best fits your needs for your speech! Keep in mind that you want the information to be relevant to your topic, but also to be credible so your audience will find the information convincing and worth their time.

  • Want more help with evaluating and the CRAAP test? Check out "How do I evaluate using the CRAAP test?"
  • Want to learn how you can quickly "check up" on a source to see if it is trustworthy? Try the SIFT tab, especially the "I" (Investigate the Source) move.
  • Not sure is a source counts as academic? Check out the "How do I know if my source is "scholarly"? tab.

Source: "Research 101: Credibility is Contextual" by Anna Eisen, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn about how credibility depends on many factors including the author, audience and purpose.

Source: "Using the C.R.A.P. Test to Evaluate Websites" by Portland State University Library, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

This video explains the C.R.A.P. test and then uses it to evaluate three websites on the topic of performance enhancing drugs in sports.

6-minute video on the CRAAP test for evaluating websites

Maybe it was easy to find, but is it good? 

Assess: Does this information belong in my academic project or is it .... CRAAP?




  •  How recent is the information?
  •  If a website, how recently has it been updated?
  •  Is it current enough for your topic? (Is this a  field with rapidly changing information?)



  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion? Is  it balanced?
  •  Does the creator provide citations or sources?
  •  Can you verify the info elsewhere?


Authority / Accuracy

  • Can you find the credentials of the author or  creator of the information? (if a website - check the "about" page)
  •  If a website, is a known, objective organization responsible for the information (example: .gov, .org, .edu domains)?
  •  Are there obvious errors or typos?


Purpose / Point of View

Is the information fact or opinion?

  •  Who is the intended audience?
  •  Are there advertisements?
  •  Is the creator/author trying to:
    • Sell you  something?
    • Inform you?
    • Entertain?
    • Persuade?  
  •  What is the publisher’s interest (if any) in this  information? Can you determine if the publisher  has a political, religious, or other ideology to  promote?


SIFT icons

  • Stop. Think critically. Avoid looking only for information that confirms your own view. Have an open mind to consider new or controversial topics and seek to understand.
  • Investigate. Find out who the author is, why they wrote it, etc.
  • Find better coverage. Read laterally. Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source.
  • Trace claims. Trace claims, quotes, and media to the original source.


STOP reminds you of two things:
  1. First, when you first hit a page or post and start to read it — STOP.  
  • Ask yourself whether you know the website or source of the information, and what the reputation of both the claim and the website is. If you don’t have that information, use the other moves to get a sense of what you’re looking at.
  • Don’t read it or share media until you know what it is.
  1. Second, after you begin to fact-check, it can be easy to want to "keep going" or get lost clicking on result after result. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, STOP and take a second to remember your goal.
  • If you just want to repost, read an interesting story, or get a high-level explanation of a concept, it’s probably good enough to find out whether the publication is reputable (Investigate the source, then stop).
  • If you are doing deep research of your own, you may want to chase down individual claims and verify them (Do all four SIFT moves.).


Investigate the source

The idea here is that you want to know what you’re reading before you read it.

Now, you don’t have to do a Pulitzer prize-winning investigation into a source before you use it. But if you’re reading an article on economics by a Nobel prize-winning economist, you should know that. On the other side, if you’re watching a video on the benefits of milk that was created by the dairy industry, you want to know that as well.

Knowing the expertise and likely bias of the source is crucial to your interpretation of what they say. 

Source: "Online Verification Skills — Video 2: Investigate the Source" by CTRL-F, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Find better coverage

When you don't care about a source -- or already suspect bias -- your best bet is to go out and find the best source you can on the topic, or look for consensus, to check the claims the original source is making

Source: "Online Verification Skills — Video 4: Look for Trusted Work" by CTRL-F, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context

Much of what we find on the internet has been stripped of context, and we're not sure if we're receiving all the details. In these cases, you can trace the claim, quote, or media back to the source, so you can see it in it’s original context and get a sense if the version you saw was accurately presented.

Source: "Online Verification Skills — Video 3: Find the Original Source" by CTRL-F, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Adapted from "SIFT (The Four Moves)" by Mike Caulfield, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Source: "How Library Stuff Works: Scholarly vs. Popular Sources" by McMaster Libraries, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn about the differences between scholarly and popular sources and how to identify them when researching your topic.

What do we mean by "bias?"

Bias is when the source has a particular viewpoint or ideology it is trying to promote. In the chart below, different United States news publishers are sorted by where their stories tend to "lean" in partisan political bias (liberal or conservative) and how much straight news reporting vs. news interpretation ("features," "opinion") vs. disinformation (nonsense or conspiracy theory) reporting they do. This chart is a few years old, but can give you a sense of how the presentation of the same event might differ across different organizations' websites!

Media Bias Chart - version 3.0 from Vanessa Otero