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Information Literacy Tutorial: 3. Organizing & Evaluating Information

How to use this section

Part 3 of the tutorial consists of 3 sections (A, B & C) containing readings, videos and questions. First read through the information and watch the videos on pages 3A, 3B, and 3C. When finished take the quiz at the end of section C. The content in these sections is best followed from top-to-bottom beginning with the left column.

3A: Organizing & Evaluating Information

3B: Source Authority, or Who says this is right?

3C: Evaluating sources

After completing this part of the tutorial students will be able to 

  • Use their knowledge of the information cycle to help them make informed choices about what sources are relevant to their project.
  • Assess sources for relevance towards their assignments. 

3A: Organization of Information


From social media posts, to books and articles.There is a lot of information out there. 

How can you, as a student determine what type information is best for your particular project?

To successfully choose a source you should be able to examine the source and evaluate it to determine if it is appropriate for your topic.There are several different criteria to consider from distinguishing between the relevancy of different formats to the authority of the source in relation to your topic. 

icons by Umar Irshad

What is Relevance?

rel·e·vance  (noun):  the quality or state of being, closely connected or appropriate. (i.e., "this film has contemporary relevance")

Relevance considers the importance of the information for your research needs. A relevant information source answers your research question. 

Is it relevant? Ask these questions.

  • How is the information useful to you? How well does it relate to your topic or answer your research question?
  • What details are provided that specifically address and answer your research question or thesis?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper? Is the work scholarly or popular?
  • Relevance is intermixed with all of the other evaluation criteria: What is the purpose of this source? Is it to sell a product, educate, advocate or persuade, or to entertain? Who is the intended audience? Are political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases evident? 

Just because it appears at the top of your search results doesn't mean it's relevant! In the library catalog & databases, there are usually subject headings and sometimes an abstract or summary that can tell you more about the source. In a book, you might need to scan the table of contents and index or even read the preface or introduction. In a scholarly research article, read the abstract first - it should summarize the research. Then read the introduction, and the discussion and/or conclusion before diving into to the rest of the article.


3A: Information Cycle

When researching your topic you may find that you can't find books or articles on your topic. Consider what Librarians call "The Information Cycle". 

The Information Cycle is the progression of media coverage of a particular newsworthy event.  Understanding the information cycle will help you to better know what information is available on your topic and better evaluate information sources covering that topic.

After an event, information about that event becomes available in a pattern similar to this:

image from: adstarkel  

Video: Information Cycle

Watch this  video for an explanation of the Information Cycle.  Using the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami  as an example of  what the information cycle is and how it is a part of our daily lives. 


University of Washington Libraries. "The Information Cycle." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 22 June 2012. Web. 4 August 2016.