Information-literate students are able to:
Anyone can publish on the Web. Critical evaluation of information is vital in conducting research. When you need to evaluate information you should look at:
- access information efficiently and effectively.
- evaluate information critically and competently.
- use information accurately and creatively.
- Accuracy can be difficult to judge unless you have a thorough understanding of the topic.
- Does the author give supporting documentation for facts presented?
- Does the information contradict other reliable sources?
- Information is published for an audience; who is the intended audience?
- Audiences can include the general public, professional and/or practitioners, academics, and/or researchers.
- Who is the author and what are his/her qualifications?
- Who is the publisher and what is the purpose of the site?
- How extensive is your topic covered?
- Try to determine the breadth and depth by looking at the amount of detail the information provides on your topic and its scope.
- How credible or believable is the source?
- Credentials: academic background, institutional affiliation, or previously published work.
- Arguments: Are arguments for the author's point of view logical and well reasoned?
- Documentation: Are facts and arguments supported by references to existing scholarly literature by reputable authors?
- You should try to ensure you are using the most up-to-date information available.
- Depending on your subject area you may need to consult the most recently published material. This is especially true for law, science or technology subjects and other evolving disciplines.
- Information may have been superseded by more recent information, or the information may have been refuted by other authors.
- Be aware of how the information you are consulting is being influenced by personal feelings or opinions when representing facts.
- Does it represent multiple viewpoints?
- Does the source seem to have a hidden agenda, or rigidly narrow point of view?
- Does the source distort other points of view, or dismiss them out of hand?
- Does the source accept advertising? If so, does the advertising appear to bias the information?
- Is there an conflict of interest? Does the source stand to profit financially from a particular point of view?
- Information has been written for a specific purpose.
- Understanding why will tell you about its suitability for your research.
- Is the information relevant to your topic?
- During your initial search, explore broadly so that you won't exclude anything that you may later decide is important.
- As you progress in your research, you may find information that is current, reliable, and comes from an authoritative source, but not relevant for your specific information needs.