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Everyone gets confused over how to evaluate their citations. Is the source a good one? Is the source biased? Is the author qualified?

One way to evaluate a card is field expertise. In other words, is the author an expert in the field being discussed in the card or does the author directly quote an expert in that field. For instance, if we are discussing a facet of homelessness, then a homeless person would be an expert on being homeless and what that is like. The card which quotes the homeless person might be better qualified than the card by the PhD who has never been homeless a day in his life.

Another way to examine field expertise is to look at the publication. Is the publication considered to be expert in the field discussed within the card? Is the publication peer-reviewed? A law journal would be considered well-qualified to discuss the field of law. The author doesn’t have to be a lawyer or a professor of law. He has to pass the review process. This means that the particular published work is valid in that field. For instance, our Save the Whale affirmative case utilizes cards from Richard Max Strahan writing for the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review. Mr. Strahan is not a lawyer. However, the institutional legitimacy of the publication he is writing for gives his article authority and credibility.

So, how do you answer questions of bias or credibility in the middle of a heated debate round? Just like you have standards ready to defend your topicality, have standards ready to defend your sources. Evaluate every card in your files. Compare these cards. Write down the standards used for each card (peer review, field expert, expert publication, etc.). Write down why that standard should be preferred. The key is to be prepared. Do not go to a meet; do not prepare a brief; do not cut evidence cards without first evaluating that evidence for the standards you will utilize in defending it. If you are unable to establish good standards for why that evidence should be preferred in the round, it isn’t worth your valuable time to card that evidence.

This methodology can also be utilized to fine tune your evidence. Compare two cards that say virtually the same thing. Evaluate the standards to prefer on each of these cards. Include the best card in your brief, throw the other away.

Watch the Symposium on whales that Mr. Strahan participated in.
An interesting read on source credibility from an NFL coach. 
For more information on credible sources, read Frank’s post on blogs.

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