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Research Guides by Subject
ACT UP was created by Dawn Stahura as an updated method for evaluating sources while doing research or even just surfing the web. ACT UP is an acronym. Going letter by letter, you can examine your source to determine how you should receive the information it holds and if the source merits inclusion in your academic paper or project. There is an unfathomable amount of information available to you; it is our hope that this method will help you to sift through and choose relevant, reliable, and truthful sources that you have examined from every perspective. This page will guide you through using the ACT UP Method.
Use the tabs on the left side of this page to dig deeper into how you can tie social justice into evaluating and selecting your sources.
Who wrote the resource?
Google the person or organization - what's their deal? Are they an authority on the subject? What are their credentials to write on this subject? What else have they written?
Consider intention. Why was this information created? Was it created to educate, persuade, sell something, as parody? Information is an expensive commodity and so understanding the reason why the information is being shared can help you figure out if it's something you want to use in your research.
For a website, look for the "About Us" section and read over their mission, purpose, who sits on their board, where they get their funding, etc.
Pay close attention to the domain of a website (.com, .org, .edu, .gov). Sites that end in .edu or .gov are reserved for colleges/universities and government organizations respectively. Sites that end in .com or .org can be purchased by anyone. This is not to say that a .com is better or worse than a .org site - you will need to look into the authors, the "about us" section, and do some further digging to find out more about the information that is being shared, who is sharing it, and why.
What date was the resource published?
How old is too old? What defines "current" for your topic of study? Does the currency of the information matter? For example: consider the importance of currency when looking at information on the Covid-19 pandemic vs. the history of the U.S. Revolution.
Do you need to find up-to-date current information?
Does the resource's publication date fit the required date range of your assignment?
Has the resource been revised of updated? When?
If you are on a website, can you find when the site was last updated? (Hint: look for the time stamp on the bottom of the web page called "Last Updated")
Is this information factual and truthful? Accurate and reliable?
Is the information verifiable elsewhere? Misinformation and bad research are shared often, even on reputable websites!
Can you find additional sources that verify the information?
Is the information supported by evidence? Does the information being shared include citations? If so, look for the sources that are cited and see what you can find out about them.
In news articles, blogs, etc, follow the hyperlinks to the studies that are being reported on.
If you see spelling mistakes, typos, or grammar mistakes move on from this source - this means the content hasn't even been edited! Example: if the source incorrectly uses their / they're / there it's not a good source.
Pay attention to the language being used. If sensational or emotional phrases like "WHAT THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW!" are being used, then there's a high chance this is click bait or false news.
Bias exists in each of us. There is no such thing as a resource that does not reflect any biases. Be aware of this as you examine your resource.
Look for resources that are impartial.
Be aware of any conflicts of interest, such as funding sources. Research is expensive so funders might have a vested interest in the outcome.
Example: an article written by Apple about the picture quality of the newest iPhone.
Example: an article published by the NRA on gun control.
Example: a study funded by Coca-Cola on the connection between sugar and depression.
Earlier you Googled the author(s). Did you uncover any conflicts of interest?
Pay particular attention to your own biases (we all have them!). This will affect how you approach a topic and your research.
Are you selecting resources that confirm your own biases? Try to break out of the confirmation bias habit!
Privilege exists in publishing, academia, and libraries. Learn more by visiting the P is for Privilege page of this guide.
Privilege in publishing generally means that most scholars/researchers that have the opportunity to publish their research in academic journals are white males (often peer-reviewed by other white males). But are they the only people that might publish or write on this topic? (Of course not!)
Who is missing from the research conversation? Why?
Who is missing from the research itself? For example, in a research article: what is the population being studied and what sample is being used to represent it? What are the ramifications of this? Can this be considered a true "general" study?
Example: if a study had white male participants test a medication, can we use the findings to say the drug would be effective for everyone?
Example: if a study surveys women in suburban areas, are the results representative of all women?
Take the time to search for sources and authors who do not show up on the first page of your search results or who are not represented in the databases at all. Visit the Citation Activism page of this guide for more information on how to do this and why it's important.
Access to information is also a privilege. You have access to our library's resources because you are a student at the College of Saint Rose. These resources live behind a paywall and our library maintains expensive subscriptions that give us access (that's why you have to login using your CSR ID to get access to our databases).
What does this mean for people trying to do research that aren't students or professors at an academic institution? What resources does the public library have? What about access to computers or even the internet?
This guide is used and has been adapted with the permission of Dawn Stahura. The ACT UP evaluation method was created by Dawn in 2017. For information about reusing the guide, please contact email@example.com
Note: When copying this guide, please retain this box.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.