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Sustainability Resources for Faculty and Students: Evaluating Information

Evaluating Websites With the 5 Ws

Goldfinch, Ellen. "Evaluating Websites With the 5 W's." YouTube. 8 Oct. 2014. https://youtu.be/OPI7FVon29k 

Evaluating Sources

Stanford University Libraries. "How to evaluate sources." YouTube. 2. Feb. 2017. https://youtu.be/bZ122WakNDY

Evaluating Information Sources

Often finding information is less of a problem than figuring out whether that information will be appropriate for your project. One way to decide whether a source is “good” for your project or not, is to begin by asking some questions about the source. Remember! Evaluation is a holistic process. One of these questions isn’t enough to determine a source’s usefulness. You need to take them all into consideration.

WHO created the source?

  • What authority does the author/organization have to present on this topic?
  • What are their credentials? Are they connected to the field they are writing about?
  • Are they affiliated with any specific organizations? Could this impact their reliability?
  • Is there contact information for the author or publisher?

WHAT is the purpose of the source?

  1. Is it informing? Selling? Entertaining? Persuading?
  2. Does the point of view appear to be objective or does it appear to be strongly biased?
  3. Is the language emotional pointing to a personal connection to the topic?
  4. Are any included images appropriate to the topic and clearly labeled or cited?
  5. If on a website: What URL does the site use and what does this suggest about the source?
  6. If on a website: Are the ads clearly separated from the information?

WHERE does the information come from?

  • Does the source use evidence to support its claims?
  • Are there any references? If so, are they appropriate to the topic and source?
  • Is there a bibliography? If so, what kinds of sources are being cited?
  • Can the information be verified with another source?
  • Is the source presenting fact or opinion?
  • Does the source contain spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?

WHEN was the source published?

  • Has the information been updated or revised if necessary?
  • Does your topic require very recent information, or will older sources be acceptable or even preferred?
  • If on a website: Is a date given for when the information was posted?
  • If on a website: Are there important links that are now dead or overall are they kept up to date?

WHY is this source useful to you?

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level for your needs (i.e. not too simplistic/not too advanced)?
  • Does the information help to answer your research question or develop your argument?
  • Does the source add new information or simply repeat or summarize other perspectives?