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TESC 201: Environmental Sustainablitity: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Criteria for Evaluating Information

Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

Who? Authority

  • Who is the author (individual, organization)?
  • What are the author's qualifications (occupation, years of experience, position, education, other)?
  • What is the author's institutional affiliation, if any? (educational institution, nonprofit organization, company, other?)
  • Is contact information given so that you can contact the author for clarification or more information?
  • Is there an About Us section?


What? Accuracy

  • Does the content appear to be well-researched?
  • Are there editors and fact checkers?
  • Are there references to sources of information supporting any statements made or viewpoints held?
  • Are the facts documented so that you can verify the content in another source?
  • Does the item include grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?
  • If Websites are suggested or linked to, are they quality sites?


When? Currency

  • When was the item written or published?
  • Is it important that the info you need by right up to date?
  • If a Website,
    • When was the site created?
    • When was the content last updated?
    • Is it current enough for your needs?
    • Are there any "dead" links?


Where? Publisher

  • Who is the publisher?
  • How reputable is the publisher?
  • Does the publisher take responsibility for the content?
  • Is the item published as a peer-reviewed/referreed journal, scholarly journal, magazine, or news source?
    Check the Ulrich's Periodicals Directory [UW restricted] if you're not sure.
  • If a Website,
    • Where is it published? What is the domain?
    • Will it be there tomorrow?


Why? Purpose & Objectivity

  • Why does the source exist?
  • Is there a statement of mission, purpose, target audience?
  • Does it provide many opinions? Balanced?
  • Does it contain mostly opinions or facts?
  • Is there bias in the information and opinions presented?
  • Is it selling? Promoting? Ranting? Sponsoring?
  • Does the source represent the agenda of a political, religious, or social group or institution?
  • If there is advertising, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?


How? Determining What's What

  • It's ok to doubt. Scepticism should be the rule of thumb when searching the Web.
  • Double-check the facts and sources. Find the information in another source.
  • Find other web pages that link to this page.
    If other pages link to a site, then they recommend that site for one reason or another. Why do they recommend it? They could be fans or detractors of the site.

    • Check the WHOIS records.  Search for the web address to find out who registered the domain name. 
    • Do a link search in Google, Bing, or another search engine that provides this feature.
      In Google, type link:<<insert url>> into the search box. If you find no links, try a shorter portion of the url, stopping after each /.
      ex. link:

  • Look for more info about and by the author
    Googling someone can be revealing, but be sure to consider the source. If the viewpoint is radical or controversial, expect to find detractors.

    • In Google, search for the name as a phrase.
      ex. "Jane Doewebauthor"

    • In Google, search for the name as a phrase with * between the first and last name.
      ex. "John * Doewebauthor"