There is so much information available at the click of a button yet not all of this information is valid, useful, or accurate. Evaluating sources is one of the most important skills you can develop to help you with your class assignments now and in the future.  It is also a good skill to have in order to process the information you receive daily form various news sources.

A quick way to evaluate sources is to answer the following questions:

Who- Is the author qualified in the subject?  Is a biography included? Is there a sponsor and if so what are the goals?  Is it an official site or personal?

What- What is the purpose of the site? What info is included and how is it different from other sites? Is it relevant to your need?

When- Is there a date listed?  When was the information last revised?  Are links up to date? Does the topic require up to date information?

Where- Where does the information come from?  Is it original information or reprinted from another source?

Why- Is this information better than other information found? Do conclusions seem based in fact or opinion?
 
 
Once you have selected sources using the quick evaluation method, you should use the following questions to further evaluate the source's reliability and usefulness.

Relevancy

  • Does the source offer something unique on the topic?
  • Is the information provided relevant to your information needed?
  • Is the content appropriate to your proficiency level?

Authority

  • What information is provided about the author’s credentials?
  • Is the author qualified in the subject covered?
  • Can the author be verified in a biographical source or Usenet search as an expert in the field?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable institution or scholarly publisher?
  • What are the goals/values of the sponsoring institution?
  • Is the author mentioned in or linked from another trustworthy source?
  • Is a web site part of an official site or on a personal account? Check for clues like a –in the URL

Accuracy

  • How does the source compare with others on the topic?
  • Can the information be verified in other sources?
  • Is there a bibliography which indicates the author’s sources of information?
  • Is the author’s methodology presented?
  • Is the information original or reprinted/excerpted from another source?

Currency

  • Is there a date listed for the information
  • When was the information last revised? (View>Page Info.)
  • How up-to-date are the links in a web site or the citations in a bibliography?
  • Does the topic require very current information?
  • Is an edition listed?

Point of View/Objectivity

  • Who is providing the information and what is their purpose?
  • What does the URL or server tell you about the site?
  • Do the conclusions seem based in fact or opinion?