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Critical Evaluation of Information Sources

Check the Source

True or false: I can trust information that is published because it has been reviewed by someone other than the author: an editor, a peer reviewer, a publisher, or an institution. Most people would probably agree with this, except perhaps when referring to the Internet (where many might disagree).

To evaluate authority:
Ask the Questions
Who is the author?

Find Answers
Can you identify an author for the work? Most common places to find authors' names listed: o Title page (book or report) o Title information at top of first page (articles, book chapters) o End of the article (encyclopedias)
o

Top or bottom of page (web pages)

Who is the publisher?


Commercial, trade, institutional, other Known for quality and/or scholarly publications Basic values or goals Specialization Editorial board Blind review process

Look in directories, e.g. o Writer's Market o Literary Marketplace o Directory of Corporate Affiliations Search the web for the publisher's web site Look for editorial guidelines or author instructions in journals or on the publisher's web site

Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization?


Search the web for the organization's web site Look in directories, e.g. o The Encyclopedia of Associations
o

Organizational mission Basic values or goals National or international Membership

Research Centers Directory

To evaluate quality:
Ask the Questions
Is the information well-organized?

Find Answers
Look at the headings to indicate structure Look for agreement among reviews o Magazines for Libraries o Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory o Book reviews
o

Logical structure Main points clearly presented Main ideas unified by overarching idea Text flows well (not choppy or stilted) Author's argument is not repetitive Has the author used good grammar? Are there spelling or typographical errors?

Internet Scout Report

Read carefully for errors

Are the graphics (images, tables, charts, Consider other ways to present the information diagrams) appropriate and clearly presented?

Clearly labelled Descriptive title Understandable without explanatory text

Is the information complete and accurate?


Verify facts and statistics with a reliable source Examine cited sources for authority and objectivity

Facts and results agree with your own knowledge of the subject Facts and results agree with those of other specialists in the field Documents sources (a very important indicator of quality) Describes methodology Addresses theories and facts that may negate the main thesis Avoids questionable assumptions

To evaluate currency:
Ask the Questions
When was it published?

Find Answers
Look for a publication or copyright date on the o Title page (books, journals) o Reverse of the title page (books) o Cover (journals, magazines, newspapers) o Table of contents (journals, magazines) o Bottom of the page (web sites) Dates on web pages may indicate o When the page was created o When the page was published on the web
o

When the page was last revised

To evaluate relevance:
Ask the Questions
Does the work address your research question or meet the requirments of your assignment? Is the content appropriate for your research topic or assignment?

Find Answers
Review your research question and/or assignment

Check the table of contents or scan the subheadings Read the preface, abstract, introduction, and/or conclusion Look for footnotes or endnotes and/or a bibliography Look for reviews o Magazines o Periodicals o Book reviews
o

Internet Scout Report

Easy guide for research work


from 10-years-old up to high school level

Planning it out
What do I want to know? What questions should I ask? What do I know about this myself? What do I need to find out? Where and from which sources do I intend to look for information? Are there any particular people I need to meet? How am I going to present this? Who will listen to/read/look at my presentation? When is it for?

Thinking critically
Who has circulated this information? / Who is the author? How current is the information? Is there a date indicated? What does the author recount? "Why was it done this way?" What does the writer want me to think? Does the information contain facts or just someone's opinions? Can I trust this information? Can I use this in my work?

Putting it together
What have I found out? What do I personally think? What do I want to say?

Describing the work


How did I plan it? Did I get answers to my questions? What was difficult? Which sources did I used? What have I learned through doing this?

Indicating source references


Books: Author, title, publisher, year published, page Articles: Author, title, Journal, number, year. Internet: Author, title, date published, URL-address, date when you found information. Print a copy of the document!

Project: Check the Source! Swedish Schoolnet Ann Wiklund, November 1999 Translated by Willie Enstech, January 2001