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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?

Director of Library Services

Acknowledgement

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