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Criteria for Evaluating Sources
If you do searches in Google or another search engine to find information on your topic, you will need to evaluate each site to see if the information is reliable. The first step in evaluating web sites is often to determine what type of web site you are viewing (e.g., blog, academic, business, government). This will help you decide whether the information is suitable for a research paper. To evaluate web sites, use the following guidelines:
- Is there an author listed?
- Is the author an individual or an organization?
- Does the author cite formal credentials or experience?
- Can you see what else the author has written to determine if they are knowledgable about this topic?
- Do you know who sponsored the page? Are they reputable?
Sometimes bias is easy to see, others times it is more subtle. As you learn more about a topic, it is easier to spot bias.
- Does the site present information in an objective manner?
- Are all sides of an issue represented, or is this site biased?
- Are there any groups that are not represented?
- Is the level of the website appropriate to your needs?
- Does the content cover several topics minimally or one topic in detail?
- Does the site provide documentation for the information provided?
- Does the site provide information that contradicts other sources?
- Does the site include an explanation of its research methods?
- Was the information recently published?
- Has it been updated or revised?
- Does the information add to or support your research?
- Does the site provide additional links that are also useful?
- Does the page provide more or less information than you need?
For more information on how to evaluate web sites, go to this tutorial from UC Berkeley.
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