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HIST 21: American Civilization since 1877

Dr. Julie Gallagher

Evaluating Information

Why Evaluate?

Evaluating information encourages you to think critically about the reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, point of view or bias of information sources.

Just because a book, article, or website matches your search criteria and thus seems, at face value, to be relevant to your research, does not mean that it is necessarily a reliable source of information.

It is important to remember that sources of information comprising the Library's print and electronic collections have already been evaluated for inclusion among the Library's resources. However, this does not necessarily mean that these sources are relevant to your research.

Questions to Ask

What criteria should you use to judge information sources? This will depend on your assignment. You should always use valid sources, but the type of source you are allowed to use will depend on the assignment rubric. 

The following questions are examples of how to think about information sources: 

Who is the author (may be individual or organization) and/or publisher?
What are the credentials and affiliation or sponsorship of any named individuals or organizations?
How objective, reliable, and authoritative are they?
Have they written other articles or books?
Is the author(s) listed with contact information (street address, e-mail)?
Has the publisher published other works?
Do they specialize in publishing certain topics or fields?
Is the publisher scholarly (university press, scholarly associations)? Commercial? Government agency? Self (“vanity”) press
What can be said about the content, context, style, structure, completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the source?
Are any conclusions offered? If so, based on what evidence and supported by what primary and secondary documentation?
What is implied by the content?
Are diverse perspectives represented?
Is the content relevant to your information needs?
When was the information published?
Is the information provided by the source in its original form or has it been revised to reflect changes in knowledge?
Is this information timely and is it updated regularly?
Where else can the information provided by the source be found?
Is this information authentic?
Is this information unique or has it been copied?
Why was the information provided by the source published?
What are the perspectives, opinions, assumptions and biases of whoever is responsible for this information?
Who is the intended audience?
Is anything being sold?