Robert W Van Houten Library

How to evaluate information sources

Introduction

The quality of information available on the internet can vary significantly and the ability to critically evaluate sources is an important skill. The internet is a system of networks and a communications tool, not a source. It is essential to analyze any source, but especially web resources,  for content, validity, and appropriateness.  Unlike journals or books, web pages frequently lack editors or publishers who filter out misinformation.

Videos

Questions to ask about web resources

AUTHORITY

  • Who is responsible for the contents of the page?
  • If the site is sponsored by an organization, is this information prominently and clearly displayed?
  • Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of the page's sponsor? Is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information? (Simply an email address is not enough.)
  • Is it clear who wrote the material and are the author's qualifications for writing on this topic clearly stated?

ACCURACY

  • Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source?
  • If data are included, is the source of the data indicated?
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but also can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)
  • Is it clear who has ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  • Does the data/information make sense?
 AUDIENCE
  • What is the purpose of the site?
  • Is the information intended for consumers, employees, investors, students, researchers, specialists, or experts?

OBJECTIVITY

  •  Does the page appear to be marketing services or products?
  • Are any biases or assumptions noted?
  • Is the author or sponsor of the page advocating particular viewpoints or causes?
  • Is the information free of advertising? If not, are the advertisements clearly differentiated from the informational content?

CURRENCY

  • Are there dates on the page to indicate when the page was last revised?
  • Is the page updated on a regular basis?
  • Are the links updated on a regular basis?
  • If material is presented in graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?

COVERAGE

  • Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?
  • If there is a print equivalent to the web page, is there a clear indication of whether the entire work is available on the web or only parts of it?
  • If the material is from a work which is out of copyright (as is often the case with a dictionary or thesaurus) has there been an effort to update the material to make it more current?

QUALITY OF THE PAGE

  • Do the links work?
  • Is the page well organized and easy to navigate?
Evaluation of Information Sources: Critical Questions

This checklist was compiled  from "Evaluating Web Resources" from David and Lorraine Cheng Library, William Patterson University.