PADRE and other library & research help: PADRE

Dale Larsen is a librarian at the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library and has a few working exercises to get you through some of the anxiety of research at the university level.

PADRE Explanation

Our era of information abundance can quickly turn into information overload -the PADRE criteria is designed to help you wade through some of the lower value information, but more importantly, determine the value of information that you're considering to use in a paper, project or even to make choices in your life.

PADRE: Purpose, Authority, Date, Relevance & Editor(s)
As you look at a piece of information (report, website, comment, article, review, spoken statement, whatever...) ask yourself the following questions:

PURPOSE: Do I know why the information exists?
Why was the information given/published/produced/etc.?  To inform? To persuade? To sell? To entertain? To get you off their back? –there’s no absolute correct answer, but it is very helpful for you to determine whether you can tell or not.  The golden standard is to confidently know that the purpose is to have an unbiased intent for you to make up your own mind by providing evidence of research, a review of other sources & literature and objective statements.  You can sometimes judge a book by its cover -see if you can determine the purpose of the samples of information below:  To inform, to persuade, to sell, to entertain, (or "unknown/undetermined" is a legitimate answer too).  

p.s. -there is no absolute answer in any of these cases, the burden falls to you -the person consuming the information to make your best-informed decision (sorry for burdening you).

sample 1 | sample 2 | sample 3 | sample 4

AUTHORITY: Do I know who is saying it?
is the author(s) and how are they an authority?  Example: Stephen Hawking has a PhD in Physics and holds the Chair of the Physics Department at Cambridge University –if he states something related to Physics, he is highly authoritative.  If he argues with you that the most important element of cheesecake is the crust –he is on equal authoritative footing with the rest of us cheesecake fans.  Note: years of specific experience also counts, but is less easy to quantify than a degree or title.  Being old or being a celebrity do not count in and of themselves.  An item with ‘anonymous’, a ‘wise man once said’, no listed author, or a record of a changed authorship, are all poor.

p.s. -there is no absolute answer in any of these cases, the burden again falls to you -the person you're quoting is important because you're including them in on your conversation/paper/choice.

Authority test #1: Donald Trump is a real estate developer -with all of his experience working with politicians, zoning boards, community councils, does this give him the authority to speak as a politician?

Authority test #2: Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist -with all of his experience working in the universe around us, is he a good authority on the existence of a god?

Authority test #3: Shaquille O'Neal played basketball professionally for years as a superstar -is he a good authority on back pain treatment?

DATE: When was the information produced? (and does that matter?)
fresh is your information, and does that matter?  If you’re looking at anthropology, a field report from a dig along the river Euphrates in 1915 may be just as valuable as today.  If you are looking for smart phone reviews, you’ll want something more recent.  If there is no date of publication –then beware.  If you find the perfect source from 2001 -show that source to a librarian and ask for something just like it, but informed by the 15 or so years since then :-)  

RELEVANCE: (This is you)  -How worthwhile is the source according to you?  What kind of info do you want?  What do you need?  How high are your standards at this moment?
You are the center of the universe (according to PADRE) -the burden falls to you to decide when something is "good enough".  Some of that is helped by pressure from professors to find "scholarly sources", but in the end, you'll have to make a determination (and I hope you ask me or another librarian for help) of what fits.  If you understand this aspect of PADRE, then the rest is much easier.  If your instructor has certain criteria of what will work and what won't -ask questions about their expectations, ask fellow class members, ask the writing center or librarians- criteria like these help frame everything you do so you can make the right decision.

What level of information do you need?  You won’t need a scholarly article to pick a restaurant to go to, but a foreign policy specialist would be ill-advised to base policy decisions on the ideas of the guy at the grocery store putting in his 2 cents (but he probably is a great reference for the nearest & best coffee shop!)

Dale's Good Enough Samples Scale Using PADRE
(no stars): who said this? TRexPants76 on a local news station comment section?
(★): Purpose -I'm pretty confident they're a good natured (but anonymous) person that just wants to share good info on Reddit (meh, good enough?)
(★★): Ooh! Its the head of the athletics department of some unstated university and they want to share information about their personal exercise regimen on a blog -that's ok
(★★★): A local social worker speaking on behalf of a county government and their proposed policy to address mental illness in the homeless population -ok, now we're getting somewhere
(★★★★): Objective, author has a PhD in the topic, published in 2016, and they write on behalf of the American Medical Association -woo! 4 stars!

EDITOR(s): Who does the author represent? (themselves, a larger company or an entire discipline?)
All information has added value when a larger group agrees with you and says so by publishing you (essentially you have successfully passed the editors’ desks).  Example; if someone says that all chicken should be eaten raw (which we all know is a bad idea, you would get horribly sick, and it would be disgusting, right?):
            in a self-published blog = it is either a prank/satire, or they are crazy
            in a local news source that will publish anything = it may still be a prank, or something that slipped by the overworked editor by mistake
            in the New York Times = it might be part of a hard to understand movement; you won’t catch me eating it, but at least I can read about why someone is.
            in the Journal of the American Medical Association = either all doctors are crazy
or there’s some bizarre, but effective treatment of a disease.


Subject Guide

Dale Larsen

1726C on the first floor of the Marriott Library, near the cafe. Please drop in!

Keywords to try

Ideas (and problems) that inform the ongoing development of PADRE

Brenda Dervin's Sense-Making

Active Learning

Mindfulness applied to learning

Information Abundance (and Overload)

Emotional flooding (psychology) and anxiety


Student success



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