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Library Skills for Students of English Composition

This is a basic library guide for students on how to find books, journal articles and other resources in Buley library for assignments and research papers.

Evaluating Sources

When evaluating whether the information in any source is reliable, a few things to consider are:

  • Who wrote it and what credentials do they have?
  • Why was it written?
  • When was it written or updated?
  • Who published the information?
  • Does it help meet my needs?
     

The Importance of Evaluating Information

Because anyone can create a web page it is important to to distiguish reliable information from bad information or misinformation on the web.

The author should be held to the same degree of credentials and authority that one would expect from something published in a reputable print resource (book, journal article, reputable newspaper, etc.).

Here are five simple criteria for evaluating information on the internet:

  • Authority - What are the author's credentials? Is the author a well-known scholar in the field? Is the author's contact information provided (phone, email, etc.? Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or credible organization? Who is responsible for the domain? Pages originating from an educational institution (.edu) or the government (.gov) are reliable. Personal pages or pages originating from .net or .com are not necessarily bad but you should be more wary and spend time verifying the information.
  • Accuracy - is the information factual? Can the information be verified through other sources? Does the information seem credible? Is the web page free of grammatical and spelling errors?
  • Purpose and Coverage - What is the purpose of the information? Does the page exist to provide information or to sell a point of view? What is the tone of the page? Is it ironic? Does it ridicule? Is the information comprehensive? Is it geared toward a particular audience?
  • Bias - is the page free of bias? Does it present an objective view of the topic? Is the language biased in any way? Do you perceive a conflict of interest in terms of the content or presentation of the topic?
  • Date - how old is the information presented? When was the page last updated? Is there any indication about the currency of the information? Are the links on the page valid?

Fact Check Like a Professional

Professional journalists and other fact checkers use the concept of lateral thinking. The Four Movements, or SIFT, spell out what to do:

The SIFT Method was developed by Mike Caulfield. An in-depth description with exercises can be found on his blog, Hapgood.