Not all sources are equally valuable or reliable. Critically evaluating the information you find is central to successful academic research. Determining the credibility of the information you find is not always easy - think of the following criteria during evaluation.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
Relevance: The depth and importance of the information.
Accuracy: The reliability of the information.
Authority: The source of the information.
Purpose: The possible bias present in the information.
- Is there a date of publication or last update?
- When was the page created?
- Do the links work?
- Is the page maintained on a regular basis?
- Is the information considered current for your topic/research?
RELEVANCE: There is so much information out there, it is easy to get sidetracked or bogged down. Keeping focused and on-topic makes deciding on the relevance of sources an easier task.
- Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
- Who is the intended audience and is the information at an appropriate level (not too basic or advanced) for your needs?
- Does the resource claim to be comprehensive and how does it meet those claims?
- Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
- Why is this resource preferable to other resource types or formats?
- Is the information correct?
- Can it be verified from other sources?
- Is the information cited?
- Are there spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors?
- Has the information been refereed/peer reviewed?
- Who is the author of the page?
- What are their credentials?
- What institution are they affiliated with?
- Is that producing institution reputable?
- Is there an email address or other contact information?
- What does the domain name tell you about the source?
- .ca - Canadian-based website
- .gov - American government
- .edu - American educational institution
- .org - Organizations or special interest groups, usually non-profit
- .com, .net, .biz - companies, pretty much everything else
- Is this information meant to teach? Inform? Persuade? Entertain?
- Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
- Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
- What other websites are linked to this one?
- Is there advertising on the site? What is being advertised?
- Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
- Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?