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Locating information, whether in traditional print format or in electronic format, is only the first step in doing research. The next step is to evaluate the quality and the usefulness of what you find.
Evaluating Online Information
Questions to ask when you are assessing online sources:
- Who is the author or creator of the page/site? Is there an institution involved? What is the name of the institution?
- What are the credentials of the author or institution (what qualifies the author or institution to present these sources objectively? Do they represent a university? A library? An individual?)
- Who sponsors the site? Is there information about funding?
- What is the purpose of the site - To inform? To entertain?, To sell you something? To argue for a certain point of view?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Are the sources cited? Where did the author(s) get the information?
- Can the information on the page be verified with other sources?
- How current is the information? How recently has the website been updated?**
Use Google and other sources to research the authors, organizations, or institutions responsible for the page and for its funding.
Don't just trust the "About" page!
Ways to Remember
Currency - when was the page written or updated? Is the info current enough for your topic?
Authority - who wrote the page? Is there eveidence that the author or oraganization is an expert on this subject?
Reliability - Are there references given for the info on the site? Is the info supported by evidence? Can this info be verified?
Purpose - is this info fact, opinion, propaganda? Is there a bias? Is the purpose to inform, sell, entertain, persuade?