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Information Literacy Tutorial: Evaluating Sources

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. 

3C: A.S.A.P Evaluation

A.S.A.P. means fast!  

Don’t waste your time with information you can’t trust.  Use this fast, easy way to evaluate information. 

A is for Author

Sometimes it’s not easy to find author credentials. But if credibility is essential, take time to learn about the author.
Credentials can include:  education, expertise, reputation, and other works by the author

S is for Sources

If there aren’t any sources, it’s not a research article. But it could still be credible.  Popular sources (newspapers and magazines) rarely cite sources.
Look for other clues to determine the credibility.

A list of sources is a clue that the article is credible, and can also lead you to more information. You should also look at the quality of the sources and the number of sources.

A is for Age

Is the information the right age for your needs? Is it too old?  How current is current enough?  For information the answer is: it depends. 

Rule of Thumb
5 years, maximum: medicine, health, technology, science
10-20 years: history, literature, art

P is for Publisher : Look for publisher credentials.

Journals, Magazines, Books
Look up the name of the publisher in a search engine to find the publisher. Do they publish other things on the same subject?  

Websites
Examine the site for information about the publisher, or sponsor, of the site.  Often in “About Us.”

Many publishers, especially university presses, specialize in academic titles. Examples:
Oxford University Press
University of Utah Press
Blackwell Publishers

3C: Evaluating sources

Here are some basic criteria for evaulating sources. These can also be broken down into the "Who, What, Where, When and Why" that many students are familiar with. 

  • Accuracy. If your page lists the author and institution that published the page and provides a way of contacting him/her. WHAT authority does the writer have? 

 

  • Authority. If your page lists the author credentials and its domain is preferred (.edu, .gov, .org, or .net). or WHO wrote it?

 

  • Objectivity. If your page provides accurate information with limited advertising, and it is objective in presenting the information. WHY was it written?

 

  • Currency. If your page is current and updated regularly (as stated on the page) and the links (if any) are also up-to-date. WHEN was it written?

 

  • Coverage. If you can view the information properly--not limited to fees, browser technology, or special software requirements. If you are only able to view something 

The criteria are similar for evaulating website as well. Check out these techniques for critiquing a webpage from UC Berkeley

3C: Why Evaluate?

To successfully choose a source you should be able to examine an online source and evaluate it to determine if it is appropriate for your topic.

There are some standard criteria you can use to help you determine if a source is really something you would feel confident in using for your finished research project.   Remember ALL information must be evaluated but the evaluation process is even more critical for information you find using the World Wide Web.  Anyone can publish on the internet.  There is no editor, editorial board, peer reviewed process for the "free", "visible" WWW available to anyone who has a computer and an Internet service provider.  Therefore, it is critical you be aware of the basic criteria for evaluating all information plus some additional criteria that should be considered for Web information sources.

There is a vast amount of information available from a wide variety of sources. As a scholar you should be able to choose which information best and most reliably helps you answer your research questions. 

Any source or information you find must be evaluated, but if you find anything on the internet you must be even more critical. Anyone can publish online. 

3C: Evaluating Sources for Credibility

What does it mean for a source to be credible? Why is it important to use these sources? How can you tell if a source is credible? The following video provides ways that you can answer these questions. 

Citation:

libnscu. "Evaluating Sources for Credibility." Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 9 June 2015. Web. 10 October 2015.  

3C: Scholarly v. Popular

Here is a video providing an explanation explaining the difference between popular and scholarly periodicals.

"Popular vs. Scholarly Sources" YouTube, uploaded by Hartness Library, 23 January 2017, https://youtu.be/OdfEmLOy4sM.

3C: Scholarly vs. Popular

After reading through the content of this section and watching the video, take the quiz to test your understanding. Please Note:  If you are taking this for a class, and accessed it through Blackboard, return to blackboard and take the Quiz in Blackboard. 

quiz link