How to Evaluate Sources with the ACORN method

Grade Levels
6th - 12th, Higher Education, Adult Education, Homeschool
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  • PPTX


In this PowerPoint I teach the ACORN method for evaluating sources.

What is the ACORN Method?

Each letter in ACORN represents a different aspect of source evaluation.

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 use of 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 a lot more recent. The reason for this is that our understanding of genetics has changed so rapidly that we are going to need something much closer to the time that you are writing in.

Evaluating a Source's Objectivity

The next letter stands for objectivity, and what I mean by this is how biased is the source. You want to look for sources that do not contain biased language. Now, 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 they're not providing a fair and balanced outlook.

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?

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, untrustworthy sources lead to untrustworthy essays. Use ACORN to achieve higher grades and protect both the credibility of your essays and authorship.

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