Gathering information on a particular topic takes time! After you have gathered all the information you need, it is time to evaluate the information. This can be a lengthy process for some people, but let’s discuss how you can evaluate information with no hassle.
Start with the scope of the book, article, or web site. Find what items are included in the resource and if the scope is included in the introduction and if it is covered in the entire article, book, or web site. How much detail is given on the topic and is the detail properly cited?
How accurate is the information? Check the date of publication to ensure the information is up-to-date and if it lists how often it is updated. You can check the content of the book, article, or web site against other sources to ensure this information is valid.
Is the information biased? When you are looking for information, you want to find opinions that are balanced so you can see “both sides of the picture” so to speak. Some works are clearly biased and others may lean more to one opinion that another. If you are reading an objective book or article, check it to see if it does acknowledge different viewpoints. Just because the information is biased doesn’t necessarily mean it is invalid or wrong. You will need to research the other opinion if you expect to keep this as a source. A good author will inform you up front that their article, book, or web site contains a one-sided opinion.
Does the author have a reputable organization (publisher or other author) behind them? How well-respected is the author in this particular field? If the author is publishing information with an educational institution, they should have a way of contacting them (e-mail or phone).
The URL is an important place to pay attention to. The URL will help you gain a better understanding as to what type of information you can expect to see. Here are the definitions for the following URLs:
.edu — This indicates the information you are reading is from a higher education college or university.
.org — This identifies a non-profit organization.
.gov — This indicates that the information is coming from a government agency or organization.
.int — This information will be from an intergovernmental organization such as “NATO”.
.com — Of course this is the most widely used of all the URLs. A .com address indicates the information is coming from a commercial organization.
.mil — This information will be coming from a military organization.
.net — Network providers such as Verizon Wireless use .net addresses.
.info — This indicates the web site is a general information site.
You can also take this one step further and research the owner of the domain name. This will protect you from finding an author who has created a web site to look like an educational source, when it is clearly for personal gain.
Check to see if you can obtain this information in other forms, such as a CD-ROM or print (if it is a web site). The other format may have additional resources that are not listed on the web site, or in the article.
You should also check the sources a book or web site it citing. For example, you may read an article online that says “click here for more information” and when you do, the web page it is referring to no longer exists. This is a good indication that the author does not keep up with their web site and they may have outdated information.