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Evaluating Information

Criteria for evaluating websites and other forms of information.

Evaluating Information

Introduction

Consider these questions as you evaluate sources of information, especially freely-available web resources.Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

Accuracy

The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Currency

The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are links in the website functional?

Purpose

The reason the information exists.

  • Is the purpose to inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Authority

The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the website URL reveal anything about the author or source (.com, .edu, .gov)?

Relevance

The value of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (not too elementary or advanced)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing the source in your research paper?

Librarian

Karl Stutzman
Contact:
574-296-6280

Acknowledgement

Thanks to Sarah Blakeslee (Meriam Library, California State University, Chico) for permission to use these evaluation criteria.