Skip to main content

Criteria for Evaluating Information: What to Think About

 

Questions to Ask

Web Issues (see also: Quality Web Sources)

Authority / Credentials

 

Who is the author or creator?

What are the author's qualifications and credentials for writing about this subject? 

Are they an expert in the field? How do you know?

How reputable is the publisher? 

Are there organization affiliations? And are they reputable?

Does the information provide references or sources for data or quotations?

Goals and aims of the people or groups presenting material is often unclear

Web often functions as a "virtual soapbox" 

Distinction between advertising and information is blurred on Web.

It is easier now more than ever for anyone to publish on the web. Scholars, too. So it becomes difficult to judge authors. Sources like Scholarly Blog Index vets the blogs before adding them. Other quality sites recommend other good sources.

Type of Source / Audience 
Types of Information:
How to Determine Audience

Is the information academic, Trade or Professional, Substantive News, Popular, or Sensational?

Is it an encyclopedia or published through a museum?

Is the purpose to educate?

How do you know?

Is there a peer-review process, fact-checkers, or editors in place who review the material before publication.

More scholars are self publishing and it's harder to tell.

Just because someone has credentials doesn't mean they are experts on all subjects.

Relevancy Is the information related to the topic you are researching? You may find something to be interesting, but make sure it has a place in your main argument.

Point of View / Objectivity / Bias

Is the information presented with a minimum of bias?

Is it fact or opinion? Does the information reflect an author's bias?

Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?

Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

To what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?

Who is responsible for its dissemination?

What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?

Is the creator/author trying to sell you something?

Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?

If the author has a position, is it well reasoned and argued and supported by empirical evidence? 

If you are going to use a source that is biased, you want to make sure that the position reflected is supported by ample evidence.

You also want to acknowledge any bias in your paper or article.

Goals and aims of the people or groups presenting material is often unclear

Web often functions as a "virtual soapbox" 

Distinction between advertising and information is blurred on Web

Currency

How recent is the information?

Is it current enough for your topic? 

Has it been updated or revised?

Is the publication/copyright date clearly labeled?

Is the information up-to-date?

Dates not always included on Web pages

If included, a date may have various meanings:

  1. Date information first written
  2. Date information placed on Web
  3. Date information last revised

Remember that just because the webpage has been updated recently, that doesn't mean that all of the information on the webpage has necessarily been updated.

Accuracy

Where does the information come from?

How reliable and free from error is the information? How do you know?

Were there editors and fact checkers?

Is the information supported by evidence?

Has the information been reviewed or refereed?

Can you verify the information in another source or from personal knowledge?

Is the content primarily opinion? Or is it balanced with multiple points of view?

Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?

Anyone can publish on the Web

Web resources may not be verified by editors or checked for accuracy

No standards yet developed.

Web pages move. If you quote this source, will it be available later?

Web pages are susceptible to accidental and deliberate alteration.

Current information is more likely to be accurate, but not always. Even if it is current, be sure to cross check the information with other sources.

Content
Coverage/Scope

What topics are included in the work? 

Is the scope broad or narrow? Are the topics included explored in depth?

Is the coverage adequate?

Are references to additional sources provided?

Are many sides of the topic covered? 

Is there evidence to back up the arguments?

Be sure the source has the kind of coverage of the topic that you want before you decide to use it.

Web version may differ from print version of same title 

Often hard to determine extent of  Web coverage

Relevance

Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

Is it easy to navigate and read?

Who is the intended audience?

Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?

Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Are the topics included explored in depth?

Is there a contents page, site map, navigation bar?

Is it easy to navigate and read?

Are special plug-ins required?

Is there a way to return to the "home page" to determine the source of the information?

Often hard to determine extent of  Web coverage.

Usability

Is there a Table of Contents, Index, page numbers to guide you?

Is it easy to navigate and read?

Is there a contents page, site map, navigation bar?

Is it easy to navigate and read?

Are special plug-ins required?

Is there a way to return to the "home page" to determine the source of the information?

Director of the Library

Sue Maberry's picture
Sue Maberry
Contact:
(310) 665-6925

Millard Sheets Library | 9045 Lincoln Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90045 | 310-665-6930
Otis College of Art and Design | Dashboard | Library in Dashboard
Millard Sheets Library | Ask a Librarian