Evaluating the information you locate is crucial when doing research. Below is a list of some questions you might consider as you look at information. Most questions apply to both print and electronic resources.
- Who is the author? What are the author’s credentials and educational background? Has the author written other works on this topic?
- Does the work have a particular bias? If so, does the author make the bias clear? Read up on biases.
- How current is the information? Has the information been superseded by new information?
- Is the publisher known for scholarly research or is the journal/magazine known to be academic? Scholarly journals contain articles that have been reviewed by either a panel of experts or by a knowledgeable editor (aka peer-reviewed). Articles in these journals include citations, either as footnotes or as a bibliography. Other periodicals that are not quite academic, such as “The Wall Street Journal” or “Scientific American,” have good reputations and can often lead to academic sources.
- Is the information provided backed up by facts or is it opinion? Is the information based on reasonable evidence? Can you verify the information you’ve located by finding it in other sources?
- What is the intended audience? Undergraduate students? Specialists in a field?
- Evaluating a study? What was the methodology? Does the reported data support the conclusion, and is the data available?
- Is the information provided in a grammatically correct way? Is everything spelled correctly? Is the information provided in a logical, well-ordered manner?
- Is the web information stable? Can you retrieve the information from the site in subsequent attempts? Take a look at the domain; is it .gov, .org, .edu, .com? When the site is updated, are the changes noted by the author or host?