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ENG-111: Researching Qualities of a Superhero

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

North Carolina State University Libraries. This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license - http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/evaluating-sources/

Evaluation Criteria Checklist - Questions to Ask

When evaluating either online or print resources for a research assignment or paper, ask the following questions from the evaluation criteria checklist below:

Evaluation Criteria Checklist - The 5 W's

Who?

  • Who is the author? Is an author listed?
  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Does the author's education or experience qualify them as an authority on the topic they are writing about?
  • What institution or organization is the author affiliated with?
  • Is contact information listed for the author?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is the source written for professionals or the general public?

What?

  • What is the purpose of the information - to educate, entertain, inform, persuade, sell?
  • What type of resource is it? (e.g., advertisement, blog, journal, magazine or newspaper article)
  • What information in this resource should I use in my assignment and how should I use it?
  • Is the information relevant to my topic or does it answer my research questions?
  • Is the information objective or does it contain any biases?
  • Are there any advertisements or sponsors?
 Where?
  • Where does the information come from? (e.g., database, organization, sponsor, .edu, .gov, .org, .com)
  • Where can I look to find out more about the publisher or sponsor?  
  • Where can I use this resource in my assignment?

When?

  • When was the resource published or last updated? Is a publication date listed?
  • Is the information timely or is it outdated?
  • Does my topic require current information? (e.g., science or technology topic)
  • Will older resources be acceptable or preferred? (e.g., history topic or primary source)
  • Do the links on the webpage or website still work?
Why?
  • Why should I use this resource for my assignment?
  • Why is this resource relevant to my thesis?
  • Why is this resource better to use in my assignment than other resources?
  • Does the source add new information to the topic I am researching or does it simply repeat or summarize other perspectives?

Where can I find reliable information on the Web?

The web contains a wealth of information published by government departments, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, commercial enterprises and private individuals all over the world. Since there are no standards for information quality on the web, not everything you find will be accurate or appropriate to use as research. Generally speaking, you can locate reliable information on authoritative websites, such as:

Government agency and department websites - URL addresses are identified by the .gov domain suffix:

College and university websites - URL addresses are identified by the .edu domain suffix:

  • Example: Harvard University https://www.harvard.edu
  • Excludes student or faculty pages hosted by the educational institution.  

Professional society and non-profit organization websites - URL addresses are identified by the .org domain suffix:

Beware, not all .org sites are unbiased. There are organizations with websites in this category that exist to promote a specific point of view, for example, Planned Parenthood, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or the National Rifle Association.

Commercial or for-profit company websites - URL addresses are identified by the .com domain suffix:

If it is not obvious the information comes from an authoritative group, look for links such as About UsWho We Are or Our Mission to evaluate the source.