You will need to judge for yourself the quality of the material you find on the Open Web and in other resources. Apply critical thinking skills to determine whether the information found can be useful to you. So, here's a chance to have TACO time! Think about these evaluation criteria as you search:
Read the explanation at the right for more about each of these criteria.
Select the tabs below to learn more about evaluating information resources.
The first step in a research strategy is understanding your topic and knowing that your topic responds to the assignment instructions. Your topic becomes a significant factor in how you select and evaluate websites and other information resources. For example, a website should
|Determining the author of a website is an important first step in evaluating a website’s reliability. An author’s name will usually be at the top or bottom of a webpage or near an article title, and many websites provide credentials for the author as well. Is the author an expert this field, or have you found an opinion unsupported by cited sources?
Understanding who the publisher, creator, or owner of a website may be as important as identifying the author. The publishing body is the group that pays to host the website. This can be a for-profit company, a non-for-profit organization, a college/university, a government agency, or even a private individual. If you are unsure as to whether or not your source is trustworthy, you can always check with your instructor or a librarian!
One of the benefits of using a web resource is that it is often the most current way to get information. Events that happen are often published to the Web moments after they occur. Since that is the case, it is important to know that the information you are using is up to date.
When examining the timeliness of a website, you may notice several different dates: the date that the site was first published, the date of the most recent update, and the copyright date. However, a recent date doesn’t necessarily indicate up-to-date information. Webpages may be updated (by adding a link or changing the page layout) without making any change to the content. You can assess whether a website is well-maintained by seeing if the links on the page work and by looking for references to dated information (e.g., seeing “according to 1990 Census data" may indicate that the information is dated, unless it's being compared to more recent data).
As you evaluate information on the “open web,” you will discover differing perspectives, positions, opinions, prejudices, intentions, and—biases. One can think of a bias as a filter through which an author understands a given subject or concept. Sometimes such a filter distorts objectivity or presents an incomplete picture of the truth or reality of the subject. Sometimes these filters are tied more closely to emotion and intuition than to research and fact. A presentation that lacks objectivity often
One may find some of the most authoritative information about a product from the website of the company that makes it; however, what is the company's intent? to inform? to persuade? to promote or market?
Apply critical thinking to your selection and use of all information, especially information that comes from a one-sided presentation or from an argument that is dismissive of other points of view. Even if the webpage cites authoritative sources, the analysis of those sources can be biased. You may be undercutting your own position in your coursework by using sources that espouse an extreme prejudice, particularly if you do not acknowledge this prejudice. Be vigilant and find information about the author or organization and the cited references (if there are any). If you then choose to select information from a biased source for citation, recognize and analyze this bias for the benefit of your readers.
Sometimes it may be challenging to determine the reliability of information found on the Open Web through an assessment of the website itself. Journalists, and others interested in assessing information on the Open Web, make use of organizations and agencies that have made fact checking a priority.
A few fact checking sites to consider:
Before taking information sources at face value,
especially those that cover current events, try applying these considerations first.
(From the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions)