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Information Literacy: Evaluating Information

Information Literacy

Why Evaluate

WHY EVALUATE?

In today's information age anyone who has the necessary skills can find a wealth of information on almost any topic. The challenge is to sift through a huge amount of information and identify sources that are reliable and appropriate.

Whether you find information in books and periodicals, on the Internet, or on television, you cannot assume it is reliable. The user is responsible for evaluating information and judging its quality.

The next page will give you a checklist of points to consider when evaluating any information source.

 

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation Criteria

Authority

 Ask yourself:
 
What are the author's credentials?
Does the author have expertise on the subject?
 

    How can you find out? 

     
    • Look at the source to see if it tells you anything about the author's credentials.
    • Look for a biography of the person.
    • Read a critical review. A review will often give information about the author.
    • Many Internet sources do not give the identity or credentials of the author or producer. Sources that do not give this information have questionable reliability.
     

    Timeliness

      Ask yourself
    When was the information published?
    Is the date of publication important to the subject matter?
     
    How can I find out? 
     
    • Look at the date of publication.
    • Determine whether it is important to use current sources for the subject. In fields such as medicine, science, business, and technology, currency of information is important. In fields such as history and literature, older materials may be just as valuable as newer ones.

     

    Documentation

              Ask yourself:

            Does the author refer to other works?

            Does the source have a bibliography?

     

              How can I find out? 

    • Does the author support his or her statements with data or references to research?
    • Look at the end of the source for a bibliography or list of references.

     

    Purpose

               Ask yourself: 

             What is the purpose of the source?

             Is it to inform, persuade, present opinions, report research, or sell a product?

             For what audience is it intended?

             Does it show any bias?

             Is it popular or scholarly?

     

               How Can I Find Out? 

    • Read the source you are evaluating.
    • Determine whether the source is published by an organization with a particular purpose.
    • Determine whether the source attempts to sell a product or promote a particular point of view. Also, see if it presents a balanced view.
    • Determine whether the material is scholarly or popular. Refer to the page on popular magazines vs scholarly journals.

    Review Process 

                 Ask yourself: 

       If the source is a periodical article, was it peer reviewed (refereed) or reviewed by an editorial board?
        If the source is a book, what is the reputation of the publisher?
        If it is from the Internet, was there any review process at all? Was it critically reviewed after it was written?

     

               How can I find out?

    • To find out whether a journal is peer reviewed or refereed, try one of these resources:
      • the journal's web page
      • There is no comprehensive source for identifying all peer-reviewed journals. However, some online databases to which the Library subscribes have begun to flag the peer-reviewed journals so they can be searched in the database.


    • Information may be published by an association, a university press, a commercial publisher, or a government. If you know something about the publisher, you can often identify bias and point of view. Try one of these resources to learn about the publisher:Many Internet sources are not reviewed before being posted; however, government, educational, and organizational sites have some sort of review process. If no review process is stated or evident, you may assume there is none.
      • the publisher's web page
      •  
    • Read a critical review of the book, movie, or music.

    Suitability

                Ask yourself: 

              Does the source contain the information I need?

              Is it written at a level I can understand?

               How can I find out? 

    • Read the source. If it contains too much technical or specialized language or if it is written for experts in the field, you may wish to choose another source.
    • Determine whether the information is too general or too specific for your need.