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Evaluating information sources
Evaluating the information sources that you use is important to give credibility to your work. This is particularly important with material that is found on the World Wide Web but it also applies to information found in books, journals, magazines and reports.There are vast amounts of information available, but it is essential to identify resources that are suitable, reliable and factual for your assignments.
These guidelines will help you assess the quality and suitability of information you find. Ask yourself -
Who wrote it?
Who is the creator of the website or author of the content? Can they be easily identified?
Can you find information about the author’s qualifications or background? Are any qualifications relevant to the topic they are writing on?
Does author have any affiliations with any Institutions or organisations? Is the organisation reputable? Are they neutral, or do they have a vested interest in the topic?
Is the work self-published or is a reputable publisher involved?
- What is the purpose of publishing this information?
- Does it present the findings of research, an overview, or opinions?
- Is it intended to sell or promote a particular product or service ?
- What are the topics covered and how in-depth is the coverage?
- Is the information based on scientific or academic research?
- Does it include citations or references/bibliogpaphy?
- What types of references are listed ?
- Is the work scholarly (such as a peer reviewed journal article or report) or popular (such as a magazine article)?
- Who is the target audience and is this appropriate for you?
- Is language used fluently and accurately?
- Is the material biased, controversial or misleading?
- What is the domain name address of the website? This can alert you to the purpose/credibility of the site..
- gov – government site -usually contains credible information
- .com – commercial site - these may be biased, or being used as a marketing tool.
- .edu / .ac – educational institution - academic research findings are usually credible.
- .org – organisation - some may provide biased information (Note: Not all .org sites are the official sites. Check the “About us” information on the site)
- .net – networks, some organisations, Internet Service Providers
- How up to date is the information?
- Is the currency vital to your research?
- When was the website last updated?
- If content is posted regularly (such as in a blog) is the posting date given?
- Are links on the website active or broken?
Finding satisfactory answers to these questions is an indication that you can rely on the information you have gathered. It is better to use a few good quality resources than to include a lot of poor quality ones.
What do you think of these three sites? Which one/s do you think would be suitable to use in an assignment?
Check the box below for answers.
This website is a spoof - dihydrogen monoxide is just water so while the information is generally correct, it is misleading, and probably not a good source to use. Note also that the URL is for an organisation (.org) which can indicate a group set up with a particular agenda. The language is not neutral in tone- and there is a disclaimer at the bottom saying veracity is not implied.
Pacific NorthWest Tree Octopus
This website is also a spoof - and a fairly obvious one too!
This is an Australian Government website. It is regularly updated, clearly written and attributed and is a reliable source of information