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