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.