Evaluating sources of information is an important step in the research process. With the world's information at our fingertips, it is more important than ever to evaluate sources critically for credibility, objectivity, scope and depth. Almost anyonecan publish anything online! It can be difficult to determine credibility of online sources; even if the author is listed, he or she may not always represent him or herself honestly, or he or she may represent opinions as fact. It is the researcher's responsibility to evaluate resources effectively. This guide provides information on evaluating different types of sources, questions to ask yourself while reading, print vs. Internet sources, and evaluating Internet sources.
Questions to Ask Yourself While Reading Online:
Evaluating the Author:
Is there an author/creator on the page?
Are his/her credentials listed (occupation, years of experience, position or education)?
Is the author qualified to write on the given topic? Why?
Is there contact information, such as an email address, somewhere on the page?
Is there a link to a homepage?
If there is a link to a homepage, is it for an individual or for an organization?
If the author is with an organization, does it appear to support or sponsor the page?
What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything?
If the owner is not identified, what can you tell about the origin of the site from the address?
Reliability and Credibility:
Why should anyone believe information from this site?
Is the information supported by well-researched evidence?
If yes, does the source document their sources of information?
Is there an institution associated with the site? If so, are they credible?
Evaluating the Purpose:
Who is the intended audience?
What do you think is the purpose of the site? Is the purpose to:
Inform or Teach?
Explain or Enlighten?
Sell a Product?
Is the information current?
When was the site updated?
Are links related to the topic and useful to the site?
Are links still current, or have they become dead ends?
What kinds of sources are linked?
Final Notes: Think critically of the information that you use in your research. Keep track of all sources that you use so they can be cited in your project. When in doubt, ask your librarian or teacher about the sources you are using.