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English 201 Research in the Disciplines: Evaluating Sources

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Locating sources relevant to your research is an important first step. Nevertheless, not all sources are equally valid and reliable. It is therefore necessary to evaluate the quality of information in the sources you identify before choosing to integrate them into your research paper.

This page will introduce you to the basics of source evaluation in different contexts.

  • Watch the video, "Evaluating Sources."
  • Complete the tutorial, "Choosing the Best Web Resource."
  • Review "Techniques for Evaluating Internet Sources."

Tutorial: Choosing the Best Web Resource

Techniques for Evaluating Internet Sources

The Internet can be a great place for information on endless topics. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that anyone can put information on the Web—it is unregulated, unmonitored, unchecked, unedited, and of widely differing reliability. It is therefore important that to personally evaluate the validity, authorship, timeliness and integrity of the information you find.

To evaluate websites, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why should I TRUST this source?
  • Is this source PROMOTING a belief or cause?
  • Has the source been UPDATED recently?
  • Has the material been covered ADEQUATELY?
  • Is the source APPROPRIATE within the context and purpose of my research?

Techniques for web evaluation:

Read the URL carefully.

  •  Is it a personal page?
  •  Look for a personal name following a tilde ( ~ ), a percent sign (%) or the words “users,” “members,” or “people”.
  •  Look to see if it is coming from a commercial ISP or other provider of web page hosting (e.g., aol.com)

What type of domain does the source come from? Is it appropriate for the context?

  • Education sites:  .edu
  • Government sites: .gov, .mil
  • Nonprofit organizations: .org
  • School sites:  .k12, .sch
  • Academic institutions outside of U.S.:  .ac

Who published the web page?

  • Generally, the publisher is the agency or person operating the “server” computer from which the document is issued. 
  • The server is usually in the first portion of the URL between the http:// and the first /

Scan the perimeter of the page.

  • Who is responsible for the content of the page?
  • Look for links such as “About Us,”  “Mission,”  “Purpose,”  “Background,” “Biography,” etc.
  • If you cannot find such links, you can often find the information by backing up or truncating back the URL.

Is the web page current?

  • When was the last time the page or site was "last updated?"
  • Are there any dead links (links that don't work)?
  • The importance of a recent publication date depends on your needs and research area.

What are the author's credentials on the subject?

  • Does the background or education of the author look like someone who is qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is the page created by an enthusiast or self-proclaimed expert?

Look for indicators of quality information.

  • Are sources documented with footnotes or links?
  • If reproduced information is from another source, is it complete?
  • Are there links to appropriate, reliable sources?

Some information adapted from UC Berkeley Library-Teaching Library Internet Workshops: Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask  

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