Research needs can be met by an infinite combination of information sources. Those listed here are some of the most familiar formats for presentation. It is helpful to remember that although tradition no longer holds these types of publications to paper, electronic versions still attempt to answer the same questions asked of their print counterparts.
What are the author’s credentials to write about their chosen topic?
Some indications of expertise are an academic degree in a subject area, professional experience or affiliation with organization, agency, institution which works in a particular area.
Does the author list sources (footnotes, endnotes, bibliography or works cited)? Are quotations cited correctly and in context?
What is the author’s viewpoint on the subject? Is there evidence of bias in the information presented?
How well does this source cover the topic? Browse through the preface, table of contents and index to determine the depth of coverage.
When was the item published? Is it the most recent edition?
Who is the intended audience for this source?
Criteria for Internet Resources
In addition to the aforementioned basic criteria, you should also check websites for the following:
- Is the author’s name clearly visible?
- Does the author belong to an organization? Is information about the organization provided? (Look for the “About Us” page)
- Check the URL. Does it include .edu? .gov? .org? Sites with .edu, .gov and .org usually present reliable information.
- What is the purpose of the page? Is it designed to sell, inform, or persuade visitors?
- Is there advertising on the page? Can it be easily distinguished from the information content?
- When was the page updated?
- Is the factual information on the page current?
- If there are links to other websites, are they still active?
Links for More Guidance
Evaluating Information Found on the Internet (Johns Hopkins University)
Evaluating internet information (Virginia Tech)
Evaluation During Reading (Purdue University)
Seek and Ye Shall Find: How to Evaluate Sources on the Web