As you may be aware, evaluating the information you have gathered is a key step in the research process. Let’s look at some quick ways to evaluate information.
Start with the ten “C’s” of information evaluation:
Content and credibility are two of the biggest factors in evaluating information. Check to see if the author is clearly identifiable and if they have a biography.
Another important thing to look for is the URL of the source. Here are the definitions of 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.
When you are analyzing information, checking the date of publication is important. You should be able to locate the date of publication quite easily. A book typically lists the publication date on the title page below the publisher’s name. A web site will list the date at the very bottom of the article, or they may even list it at the bottom of the home page.
You should always check out the author. When you are looking for the author you need to check for 3 important things:
1.Does the book, magazine, or web site list the author’s credentials? Most web sites will have a section dedicated to their author’s so you can properly evaluate their credentials.
2.Is the author respected? The easiest way to know if an author is respected is to ask a college professor, look for other web pages that link to the article, and check to see if the author’s name appears in other sources.
3.Lastly, you should look for information linking the author to a reputable institution or organization. Find out what the goals or the mission statement is of this organization and check the author’s writing style to see if they are matching these values.
Another thing you need to look for is bias opinions in the information. If you are doing an opinion piece, then this information is fine. For those who aren’t looking to do an opinion piece, you need to find information that looks at “both sides of the story”. A good web site will tell you up front about the information you will find on their site. For example, many web sites will have a mission statement or a disclaimer stating what type of information you can expect to see on their site.
The last thing you need to consider is where the information was collected. If you are browsing the internet for information, check the URL’s and pages that link to the article. Web sites that link to old or bad URLs probably are not updated on a continual basis and this will help you determine how the author maintains their information. If the web site has several sources linking to the article, it will help to establish credibility to the author and the publisher. You can also determine if this information is the author’s own work or if it was copied from another source.