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