Not all information is created equal. Whether the information
source you are using is a printed book or periodical article or
an electronic document you have found on the Internet, the fact
that information has been published does not in itself make it
a valid source. There are some aspects of information sources -
whether those be electronic or in print - that anyone can analyze
if you know what you are looking for. If in doubt, remember to
ask your instructor.
|Criteria for Evaluating
3.Date of Publication or Last Revision
Who is the author of the information source?
Do you know anything about his/her credentials?
Especially in the case of an Internet source, the author's name
may not be present; what does this say about the potential validity
of the source?
Has your instructor mentioned the author in class?
Can you find other books or articles written by the author? Use
the library catalog, periodical indexes and/or Internet search
engines to find out. A book will often include a list of other
books written by the same author.
- Publisher/Institutional Affiliation
Who is the publisher of the source or, in the case of an Internet
document, on whose Web site is it published? A book published
by a university press or an Internet document on a university's
Web site is more likely to be a reliable source of information.
What else has the publisher published?
Is the publisher/Web site likely to have a particular bias? If
so, you will want to take this into account, perhaps by balancing
the information with a source on the same topic from another
point of view.
- Date of Publication or Last Revision
The date of publication may be an important factor in evaluating
an information source, especially in subject areas - such as
science and technology - where currency is significant.
Almost all printed information sources include a date of publication,
as well as dates of previous and/or revised editions, if any.
In the case of books, these dates are normally located on the
title page and/or the reverse (or "verso") of the title page. In
the case of periodical articles, the date normally appears on
the cover, as well as on pages throughout the periodical issue.
Internet documents should, but do not always, include the date
on which the document was last revised. This date is likely to
be found either at the top of the document (the "header") or
at the bottom (the "footer").
Just as your research paper must include a list of
references, a scholarly book, article or Web page ought
to contain a list of sources consulted, a bibliography,
and/or footnotes. The presence of references does not necessarily
imply that the information contained in the document is
accurate; however, it does allow the reader to check the
author's sources to independently verify the information.
- Intended Audience
What type of audience is the author addressing?
Is the information aimed at specialists in the field or a general
Is the information too elementary, too technical, too advanced,
or just right for your needs?
What seems to be the purpose of the author and, in the case of
a Web document, the purpose of the Web site on which it appears?
Is its sole purpose to sell a product or to promote a cause?
Does the document contain mainly the author's own opinions about
a subject or does it present facts objectively?
- Writing Style
Is the document organized logically?
Are the arguments clearly presented?
Is the text easy to read or is it overly verbose or stilted and
Perhaps most importantly, is the information relevant
to your topic? Sometimes, it may not be apparent until
you have read a substantial portion of the document that
a document is not relevant. You can often judge a document's
relative merits simply by looking at its title, table of
contents, introduction, and index, if one is present.
|Types of Web Pages
An advocacy page is sponsored
by an organization attempting to influence public opinion.
The web address usually ends in .org (organization).
Examples: the Democratic Party, the Republican party,
the National Rifle Association, etc.
A business/marketing page is sponsored
by a commercial enterprise usually trying to sell or
promote products either directly or through advertisements.
The web address usually ends in .com (commercial). Examples:
Amazon, VaPilot, Yahoo, etc.
A news page is designed to provide
extremely current information. The web address usually
ends in .com (commercial). Examples: CNN, NBCi, VaPilot,
An informational page presents
factual information. The web address usually ends in
.gov (government) or .edu (education) since many are
sponsored by educational institutions or government
agencies. Examples: city web sites, libraries, reports,
research activities, etc.
page is published by
an individual and may contain personal or professional
information. The page may or may not be associated with
a business or institution. The web address may have any
type of ending (.com, .gov, .edu, etc.)
Adapted from Evaluating Web Resources by J. Alexander
and M. Tate. Widener UniversityWolfgram Memorial Library.
Copyright Widener University, 1996.