This is a link to our Research Toolkit Video for evaluating and determining whether or not the information you find is current, relevant, accurate, what authority the author has, and what its purpose is.
Why do I need to evaluate sources?
Publishing has become easy - anyone with an internet connection can publish something these days. How do you know what and who to trust?
Knowing how to find relevant, reliable, and accurate, information can not only help you find appropriate sources for your paper, but also these skills can help you make informed decisions about things like graduate school, a new car purchase, financial aid options, and daycare choices and more.
As you know, a lot of information that is published on the web isn't reviewed or vetted. So, how do you know what information to trust? Try using these strategies to evaluate what you've found.
Comparing websites will help you determine which ones are the best and most appropriately relate to your topic. If you conduct a search with a search engine and find two different sites that look useful, look at both of them and compare them. One may have been updated more regularly, has more information, or seems less biased. That website is the one to choose. Then, you might compare that site with another one and see which site is most appropriate at that point. Think of it as a basketball tournament, except instead of basketball teams, you're comparing websites.
When you find new information that you don't know to be true or not, look for another source to back up the information. If you find another site with the same information, that site corroborates the information on the first one. When corroborating, remember that sometimes you might find the best corroborating document is in paper, and not on a web site. If you find one source that makes one claim, and then find four more sources that disagree with that claim, which are you more likely to believe? The answer to this question will also depend on who is writing those sources. What if the former source in this case is written by a scientist, and the latter four sources are a Wikipedia article, a blog post, and two other web sites that do not offer the author's name or credentials. Which source(s) would you trust in that case?
Adapted from Meola, M. (2004). Chucking the Checklist: A Contextual Approach to Teaching Undergraduates Web-Site Evaluation. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(3), 331-344.
Adapted from Wake Forest University's z Smith Reynolds Library's Web Evaluation exercise at http://zsr.wfu.edu/toolkit/tool/2
Video used with permission (Creative Commons Reuse License) from Seneca Libraries