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Evaluate Information

An important part of research is learning how to evaluate the information you find.

Things to Consider

  • Does the item meet the requirements of the assignment? (Is it the right length and format?)
  • Is the information general interest or scholarly?
  • There are five specific areas to consider when evaluating any resource
    • Publisher
    • Author
    • Date
    • Quality
    • Objectivity

Websites

Websites can be tough to evaluate because it is easy and inexpensive for anyone to create one. Be sure to look into the author's credentials and motivations for publishing their work.

Evaluating Sources Video Tutorial

Evaluating Internet Sources (6 minute video from CLIP, closed captioning available)

Five Specific Areas to Consider

Area Questions Where to Look
Publisher

All formats:

  • Who is the publisher? (E.g. university press, commercial publisher, government agency)
  • Is the publisher reputable?
  • If the content includes research, who sponsored it? (E.g. an organization, corporation or government agency)

Specific to websites:

  • Why do they sponsor the site?
  • Is contact information available?
  • What does the website domain tell you?

All formats:

Specific to websites:

  • "Contact Us" or "About Us" page
  • Domain (ending of web address)
    • .org - usually a nonprofit organization
Author

All formats:

  • Who wrote the content?
  • What expertise does the author have?
  • What are the author's qualifications? (E.g. education, employment, past writings)

All formats:

  • Biographical description on item
  • Look up author or group in a search engine, like Google

Specific to websites:

  • "Contact Us" or "About Us" page
Currency

All formats:

  • Is the publication date listed? How old is it?
  • Does the age of the information fit the requirements of your assignment?

Specific to websites:

  • Are links current? Do they work?

All formats:

  • Title page or container
  • Copyright dates
Content

All formats

  • Does author cite sources? (I.e. a bibliography, links to outside websites, etc.)
  • Are topics covered in-depth or only briefly?
  • Are there spelling or grammar errors?
  • Is it clear and well organized?
  • Was this written for a popular audience or a scholarly one?
  • Are the facts accurate? Is the author's research method valid?
All formats:
  • Examine contents of resource itself
Objectivity

All formats:

  • What is the author's purpose? (E.g. report, inform, present opinion, sell a product)
  • What is the information based on? (E.g. opinion, experience, interviews, research)
  • Does the author express opinions?
  • Do they promote an agenda or ask for action on your part on a particular issue?
  • Is someone trying to sell you something?
  • Are there ads associated with the content?
  • What is the point of view of the author, publisher or sponsor?
  • Does this information contain bias, prejudice, deception or manipulation?
  • Is it possibly a joke or satire?

All formats:

  • Descriptions of the author or publisher on the item
  • Look up author / group in search engine, like Google
  • Requests for donations, such as links that say "Donate" or "How to Help"
  • Snopes.comInformation about Internet hoaxes, rumors and scams

Specific to websites:

  • "About Us" or "Contact Us" pages

Test Your Skills

Visit this site: Male Pregnancy

Answer the questions below:

  • Publisher: Who sponsors this site? Where are they located?
  • Author: When you search for information about these scientists online, what do you find?
  • Date: When was the site last updated? What is Mr. Lee's due date?
  • Content: Does the website make references to outside sources to back up their claims?
  • Objectivity: What is the author's purpose for publishing their work?