When evaluating a resource, especially if it is on the open web, ask yourself a few questions.
- Who created this resource? Are they qualified to speak on this topic? What do they gain by providing this information?
- Is this a primary source (original material), a secondary source (evaluation of primary material) or a tertiary source (collection of primary and secondary sources)?
- Look for the "About Us" section or the author's name and contact information.
- Verify the organization or author's credentials using an outside source.
- Red Flags: Anonymous sources, lack of contact information, unqualified authors.
- What is the resource about? Does it have the information you need?
- Are there a lot of advertisements? Is it trying to sell you something?
- Red Flags: Questionable relevancy.
- Where is the information coming from?
- Where does the resource get its own information? Do they list references or outside sources?
- Red Flags: Lack of references or sources of information.
- When was the resource created? When was it last updated?
- Look for dates of publication or last modification. On websites, do not rely on copyright dates, as these are often updated automatically.
- Red Flags: No publication dates, outdated web links, reference to outdated information.
- Why does this resource exist and how does that affect the information?
- Look at the "About Us" or "Purpose" sections.
- Determine what the purpose is, and choose only resources that are compatible with your information needs.
- Advocacy: It is trying to persuade you to a particular viewpoint.
- Informational: It has multiple references or viewpoints.
- Marketing: It is trying to get you to buy or invest in something.
- Entertainment: It is trying to entertain you.
- Red Flags: Obvious bias or conflicts of interest.
- How accurate or credible is the resource? How is it presented?
- Examine references and bibliographies.
- Verify information in another reputable source.
- Avoid resources with errors in spelling and grammar. This should make you question the accuracy of other information.
- Red Flags: Grammar and spelling errors, lack of peer review, inaccurate content.