Evaluating information sources -- 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 – read through to 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 library databases, or 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?
  • is there a dogmatic or persuasive purpose, or political slant?

Does the author document his or her sources?

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

Fact-check it: can you confirm the content from other reputable sources?

You decide how you will use the content you discover:  as a primary source, opinion, scholarly source, illustration or example, or fact (for example).

Las Noticias Falsas

Fake news is not just a US phenomenon! Be careful when you're out on the web. It's easy to put up a website that looks like an "official" news site. 

  • If you aren't sure, look for information about the website or source.  
  • Wikipedia has a good list of newspapers by country.
  • Definitely be wary of news from social media sites like Facebook or WhatsApp. 
  • Does the story have references to outside sources, like government sites? Is it clear where the author got the information?
  • When you look around in library sources or on the Web, can you confirm this information?

Treat all information skeptically: even government information may be biased, or incomplete.