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Evaluate Sources

Evaluation through Lateral Reading

Evaluating Information Online

Lateral reading: Instead of staying with one website or article, you might need to jump around a bit. Open multiple tabs in your browser to follow links found within the source and do supplemental searches on names, organizations or topics you find. These additional perspectives will help you to evaluate the original article and can end up saving you time.

 

Things to remember:

  • The top result on Google is not always the best. Take a moment to scan the results and skim the snippets beneath the links.
  • Just because a website looks professional or credible doesn't mean that it is.
  • Sometimes you can find out more about a website by leaving the site itself.
  • You can use the command-F keyboard shortcut to search within an article for a name, group, or word.
  • Right-click on a link to open in a new tab.

Evaluation Criteria

Use the criteria below to help you evaluate a source.  As you do, remember:

  • Each criterion should be considered in the context of your topic or information need. For example, currency changes if you are working on a current event vs. a historical topic.
  • Weigh all four criteria when making your decision. For example, the information may appear accurate, but if the authority is suspect you may want to find a more authoritative site for your information.
  • When in doubt about a source, talk about it with your professor or a librarian.

Criteria to consider:

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this the type of information you need (ex. a research study or scholarly article)? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic?
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to?  Is this a research study with methods you can follow? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another resource? Are studies mentioned but not cited (this would be something to check on)? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

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