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MUSC 102 Global Pop Music & MUSC 104 Music in World Cultures (Mueller): Thoughts on Evaluating Sources

This guide will help you research and cite sources for your video profile assignment in Global Pop Music and Music in World Cultures.

Questions to Consider When Evaluating

As you are gathering information sources, use the SIFT method to check the credibility of your information!

SIFT = stop, investigate, find (other sources), trace claims back to original reporting


  •  Do you know this information source and its reputation? -- STOP and fact-check!
  • Are you spiraling into "fact-checking overwhelm"? -- STOP and remember your purpose!

INVESTIGATE the source

  • Where is this source coming from?
  • Is this source worth your time? 
  • What is this source's significance (to your research purpose) and trustworthiness?

FIND better coverage

  • Maybe the source you found isn't great, but you care about the claim that the source is making.
  • Go back and search for a better source that reports on, or analyzes, that claim!
  • Try to find a source that is about that interesting claim - but it's more trustworthy, or more in-depth, or possibly just a more interesting perspective.

TRACE claims, quotes, and media to the original context

  • A lot of information we come across (especially online) is taken out of context.
  • Trace a claim, quote, or media back to its original context - is it being accurately represented?

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

In your MUSC 102 & MUSC 104 assignments, you are researching music and cultures that are often seen as "other", or outside of the White/Western experience. And, because our information sources, whether they be online blogs, magazine articles, or scholarly journals, are so often White & Western, we need to be extra aware of whose voices we are including in our projects! 

One way to do this is by checking whether the information you are finding comes from primary or secondary sources. Basically:

Primary Sources include information that comes directly from an event or experience. These voices are close to the culture or music, and can include interviews or performances by people who are from that culture and who have lived experiences with that culture. If the information is about a specific event in time, primary sources can also include reports from that event. 

Secondary Sources include information that collects and views primary sources from a more distant perspective. For instance, a reporter who was not at an event or concert that happened awhile ago, but who wrote about it by interviewing people who were there at the time. Or, a reference article that gathers together information about a topic from several different sources. 

Both kinds of sources are necessary for a research-rich project. For your videos, think about this! Do you have both secondary and primary sources that talk about your topic from many different perspectives?

Video: Research 101: Credibility is Contextual

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.