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Information Literacy, Level Two: Evaluate information

Evaluating information sources - The Basics

What does the title tell you about the content?

  • Look at the title of the book, journal, article, website, or the URL.
  • A resource can have a great title but then be full of tangential ideas or not be related to your research – or vice versa – look deeper.

Can you find information about the author?

  • Is the author named?
  • Does the author have expertise on the subject?
  • What are his/her qualifications? Look for information in the resource.
  • Use Google or Google Scholar to find evidence of research on the same subject by the author.
  • Is there contact information on a website?

What is the date? Is there a date?

  • How current is the resource?
  • Is it important that the information be current?
  • Is there a date of the last update on a website?

Who is the intended audience?

  • Is the language simple or technical? Is it scholarly?
  • Use Google to find information about a publication.

How relevant is the resource?

  • What is the resource about?
    • For a book, check the table of contents and the index.
    • For an article, read the abstract, summary, and conclusion.
    • For a website, check the home page for clues.
  • Is the subject applicable to your research?

How objective is the content?

  • What is the author’s point of view?
  • Is the resource well-researched and detailed?
  • Or is it biased?
  • Is the information the author’s opinion or supported by facts?
  • Are there advertisements or items for sale?

Does the author document his or her sources?

  • Are there references, citations or related sources of information?
  • Are there footnotes?

Activity

The "best" resources to use vary from paper to paper.  What is and is not appropriate depends on the criteria you use.  A paper analyzing a past historical event does not require that resources be current so old newspaper accounts are an excellent resource.  A paper on medical treatments requires the latest information.  A current journal article may be the best source for medical research papers.  What paper are you researching for this class?   Do all of these criteria apply?  Which ones are most important for the paper you are writing?  Are there any that are not relevant?