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Research Help

Tutorial: How to Evaluate Information

Learn how to choose credible and reliable information for your research.

Is the Information I Found Useful and Credible?

How do you know if the information you find during your research process is useful for your paper and is credible? Follow the six criteria below to help you decide!

Source:

In General

  • Who wrote the information?
    • What are their credentials? It's important to know if an author is reputable. Respected authors give more credibility to the information being presented.
    • Try entering the author's name into a search engine to see what others say about them.
  • Who published it?

For Websites

  • Read the "About Us" or "About Me" page to find information on the author's background.
  • Enter the URL into a Google search to see what others say about it and what other sites link to it.
  • Look for those that end in .edu, .gov, .org, .net, .ca, .us, etc. These indicate sites that are likely more reliable than websites that end in .com.

For Videos

  • Who produced, directed, or wrote the video?

For Podcasts

  • Why was the presenter chosen to be on the podcast?

These questions help you decide whether the source of information (where the information comes from) is reputable. Well-known and respected authors, publishers, and presenters help to give information credit.

Bias/point of view:

In General

  • Is the author's tone general or full of emotion?
  • Is there one overriding point of view being promoted?
  • Be careful to look for not only the information that's present, but also what's missing. If important facts or perspectives have been left out, it might be worth looking for other sources of information.
  • It's also important to be aware of any political agenda, strong opinions on social issues, or advertising.
  • If any of these are present, it might be wise to find other information that is not swayed by ulterior motives.

Podcasts

  • Who is sponsoring the podcast or episode?
  • Does the sponsor have a vested interest in the content being discussed?
  • Is the sponsor directly affiliated with the presenter or guest?

Context:

In General

  • Is the information geared toward the area you're interested in?
  • Don't try to force relevance, if the information doesn't fit, keep looking.
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the source? Inform? Persuade? Entertain?

Coverage:

In General

  • Is the information specific enough for your needs?
  • If the information is too general and doesn't give enough particular detail, keep looking.
  • Does the source give full coverage of the topic? Or does it provide only a limited amount of information?
  • Also make sure the information is comparable to college curriculum as opposed to high school or university curriculum. Ensure the information isn't at a lower or higher level than what you need.

Currency:

In General

  • Is the information current and up-to-date?
    • For websites, when was the page last updated?
  • If new information has been discovered on the subject, look for more recent articles, books, and websites.

Accuracy:

In General

  • Is the information presented accurate?
  • It is important to cross-reference notes with multiple sources of information to verify that what's being presented is correct.
  • A good place to start the verification process is the article's or book's reference list.
  • For websites, does the author cite his/her sources? If so, follow the citation links to evaluate the credibility of their sources. These links may also give you further information to work with!

For Videos

  • Are references provided in the video description?
  • Are the statistics or the information verifiable using other sources?

For Podcasts

  • Is there a transcript of the show?
  • Are there references for sources mentioned during the show?
  • Are there links to additional sources of information and to other experts in the field?

 

References

Oakton Community College Library. (2021, January 23). Is it legit? Finding sources for your research: Finding podcasts and audio sources. https://researchguides.oakton.edu/c.php?g=971231&p=7019167

Tufts University Libraries. (2020, June 22). Evaluate videos. Research Guides@Tufts. https://researchguides.library.tufts.edu/c.php?g=959242&p=7266988