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Research Guides

            

Reliability Rating

YELLOW: Be critical, these sources generally follow professional ethical standards but will vary on the partisan continuum.

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?
  • example
  • example

What? Accuracy

  • What is the purpose of the content?
  • Does the content appear to be well-researched?
  • Are there editors and fact checkers?  Did the item go through a peer-review or refereed process?
  • 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?
  • example
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When? Currency

  • When was the item written or published?
  • Is it important that the info you need  be 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?

Credits:  Content on this page was adapted from Evaluating Web Pages : Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask

ASK YOURSELF: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE WHY?

The 5Ws help you to evaluate the information that you find.  Different criteria will be more or less useful depending on your need.

Where? Publisher

  • Where is the content from?
  • How reputable is the publisher?
  • Does the publisher take responsibility for the content?
  • Is the item published as a peer-reviewed/refereed journal, scholarly journal, magazine, or news source?
    Check  Ulrichsweb if you're not sure.
  • If a Website,
    • Where is it published? What is the domain?  Learn more about Internet Domains.   
      • .com = a commercial site
      • .gov = a U.S. government site
      • .org = nonprofit organization site
      • .edu = an educational site
    • Will it be there tomorrow?  Is it a stable site that will continue to exist?
  • example
  • example

Why? Purpose & Objectivity

  • Why does the source exist?
  • Is there a statement of mission, purpose, target audience?
  • Does it provide many opinions?  Is it 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?
  • example
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How? Determining What's What

  • It's ok to doubt. Skepticism 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 or cite this page.
    If other pages link to a Website, then they recommend that site for one reason or another.  Why do they recommend it? They could be fans or detractors of the site.
    • Do a link: search in Google to find Web pages that link to a certain URL.  If you find no links, try a shorter portion of the url, stopping after each /.
      For example: link:pjmedia.com/
  • 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.
    • Search Worldcat to see if libraries around the world hold books written by the author.
    • Search UW Libraries Article & Research Databases and Google Scholar to see if the author has published scholarly journal articles about the topic.