Assignment 4 - Evaluating Sources

Importance of Evaluating Sources, Especially Websites

The Internet was originally designed as a medium to exchange scientific and military research data. Today the internet has opened up so that scholars, researchers, average Joes, and even idiots can make anything and everything a few mouse clicks away.

The ability to critically evaluate information is an important skill in today’s information age and students and scholars must carefully evaluate all sources, especially websites, before using information from them.

There are no rules for publishing on the internet. Many websites are not good sources of scholarly information and may not be accurate or objective. There is also no guarantee that the information you looked at last week will be there next week! It’s much better to get academic information from the library’s resources. Learn more about the Steps of Academic Research.

If you do need information from the internet - and that is sometimes appropriate - make sure to evaluate the website(s) using the ABCDE Criteria. One common error is to use only one criterion when evaluating a website or other resource. Instead, use as many of the ABCDE criteria as you can for evaluation.

At the bottom of this page is a worksheet that you will fill out to evaluate two websites for this assignment. There are also two PDFs of comparison checklist(s) you can print for later evaluation of sources.

Authority

  • Who is the author / publisher / source?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic? The website's "About" page is a good place to start, but also Google the author to get more information.
  • Is there contact information?
  • What does the URL (.com .edu .gov .org .net) reveal about the author or source?

Example website: EFSA

Bias

  • Does the author / entity make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
Example website
Hawaii Independent & Sovereign

Content

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level, i.e., not too simple or too advanced for your needs?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Does the information match other sources such as books and journal articles?
Example website
Bottlenose Dolphins

Date

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated? Is there just a copyright date?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
Example website
Virtually Hawaii

Evaluation

  • Are you comfortable citing this as a reputable source for your research paper or project?
  • Why or why not?

Comparison Checklist

Fill out the ABCDE worksheet using two websites about your research topic to decide if you want to use them as a source. Your responses will be sent to your instructor.

You can print out the comparison checklist(s) for future use: