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REL 4343 Saints, Sages, and Social Reformers: Evaluating Information

Evaluating Information

Image of a question mark icon.

All information, from whatever sources, needs to be evaluated.  You evaluate information everyday from television radio, Internet, newspapers, magazines and books. In finding information for a paper, project, report, you must evaluate the information for accuracy, currency, Most of the information found in books, magazines, newspapers have already been evaluated by an editor.

Evaluating Webpages

It is critical that you evaluate any webpages that you use in doing research. There is no one evaluating material on the Internet like there is in the print world. Material found on the Internet can range from superb, quality information to biased or false information.

Evaluation Criteria

The quality of webpages on the Internet range from very good to very bad.  Therefore you must use some criteria to measure and evaluate the information found on webpages.

CRAAPS Method of Evaluating Websites

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

Criteria & Questions to Consider

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Is there a date at the top or bottom of the page?
  • Copyright symbol and date?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?
  • Often it is difficult to determine the meaning of the date included. It could mean
    • Date first created
    • Date placed on the web
    • Date last revised or updated

Tips & Ideas

  • Note: A recent date doesn't necessarily mean the information is current. The content might be years out of date even if the date given is recent. (The last update of the page might have been from someone changing an email address or fixing a typo).
  • To determine if information is up-to-date, compare the information on the web page to information available through other sources.
  • Broken links are one measure of an out-of-date page.
  • In general, information in science, technology, and business fields ages quickly. Information in the humanities and social sciences age less quickly. In some cases, old information can be perfectly valid.

Copyright Date


Examples of Webpages that have a copyright date

Bank of America
Coca-Cola
Examples of Webpages that do not have a copyright date

CDC
Durant
Joseph Smith

*U.S. Government webpage generally do not have a copyright date
*Other pages such as Wikipedia, do not have a copyright date, but instead have a date last updated information

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

Criteria & Questions to Consider

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e., not too elementary or advanced for your needs?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Examples of websites on relevancy:

 Authority: The source of the information.

Criteria & Questions to Consider:

  • Who wrote the page?
  • Is it an individual or an organization?
  • How authoritative is the information?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials?
  • Did the author include contact information, such as an e-mail address or phone number?
  • What organization is sponsoring the web page?

Examples of web pages where the author is questionable:

Examples of web pages where the author is an organization:

Tips & Ideas when evaluating the author:

  • Look for the author's name near the top or the bottom of the page.
  • If you can't find a name, look for a copyright credit (©) or link to an organization.
  • Look for biographical information or the author's affiliations (university department, organization, corporate title, etc.).
  • Look for an email link, address, or phone number for the author. A responsible author should give you the means to contact him/her.
  • If the author is an organization, look for an about link, or an About this site or about us link

Image of authority web domains.

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.  

Criteria & Questions to Consider

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Examples of web pages where the accuracy is questionable:

Purpose: The reason the information exists. 

Criteria & Questions to Consider:

  • What is the purpose of the information or webpage?
  • Why did the author create it?
    • To provide reliable information?
    • To sell you something?
    • To convince you of something?
    • To entertain you?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases? 
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? 
  •  Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?

Some websites with different purposes:

Some sites that are probably biased in their viewpoint:

Tips & Ideas:

  • Biased information is not necessarily "bad", but you must take the bias into account when interpreting or using the information given.
  • Look at the facts the author provides, and the facts the author doesn't provide.
  • Are the facts accurately and completely cited?
  • Is the author fair, balanced, and moderate in his/her views, or is the author overly emotional or extreme?
  • Based on the author's authority, try to identify any conflict of interest. Determine if the advertising is clearly separated from the objective information on the page.

Criteria & Questions to Consider:

  • Where does the information come from?
  • How well are claims documented?
  • Does the author support the information he/she uses with references to the sources he/she used?
  • Is the support respectable?

Examples of Web pages where the author gave the references that they used:


Tips & Ideas:

  • Look for links or citations to sources. Some academic web pages include bibliographies.
  • Does the page cite well-known sources or authorities?
  • Does the page cite a variety of sources?
  • Do other pages on the same topic cite some of the same sources?
  • The web page in question should have a mix of internal links (links to web pages on the same site or by the same author) and external links (links to other sources or experts).
  • If a web page makes it hard for you to check the support, be suspicious.