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Criteria for Evaluating & Analyzing Sources
When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.
||Questions to Ask
Authority / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.
- Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
- Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
- Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
- Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?
The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.
- Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
- Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
- Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.
- Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
- To what extent does the source answer your research question?
- Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
- Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
|Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
- When was the source written and published?
- Has the information been updated recently?
- Is currency pertinent to your research?
|Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased.
- What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?
Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.
- Is the source well-written and organized?
- To what extent is it professional looking?
- If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
- If it is a website, are links broken?
Who wrote the article/source, for whom, and why?
How does this source compare with the other potential sources I have found?
In what ways is it similar or different?
Consider these questions:
What's unique about this source? What does it add to my understanding of the topic, the issues, the ideas?
Does this source - and its author(s) - add a new voice to the discussion? New reasons? New ideas? Alternative points of view? Other explanations or interpretations? Illustrations? Case studies? Background information?
What is the author's intention/purpose? What is his or her perspective on my chosen topic?
There are four broad categories of fake news, according to media professor Melissa Zimdars of Merrimack College.
- CATEGORY 1: Fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits.
- CATEGORY 2: Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information
- CATEGORY 3: Websites which sometimes use clickbait-y headlines such as "Top Ten Reasons" or and social media descriptions
- CATEGORY 4: Satire/comedy sites, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news.