Evaluating Information / Literature Review

Evaluating Information Resources / Literature Review

"Not All Information is Created Equal"

How did you find the information?

Where you found the information helps you determine its usefulness & reliability.

  • Google?  The Internet?
  • Library Catalog
  • Online academic library research databases?
  • Television or radio?  Who sponsors or owns the channel?

What is the coverage and relevance?

The depth of coverage is a good indication fo the usefulness of information.

  • Are the facts verified & corroborated in other sources?
  • Does the information come from a trusted source, such as a database of peer-reviewed articles?
  • Is the information covered in appropiate depth?
  • Is the information relevant to your topic/assignment?

Who is the intended audience?

Determining the intended audience will help you decide if the information is useful?

  • Academics?  Scholars?  Professionals? General Public?
  • Is the information aimed at a particular age group?  (Children? Teenagers?)
  • Is there an intended bias towards a particular set of beliefs?

What is the purpose of the information?

Determining the information's purpose will help you decide the usefulness of the information.

  • Are research findings being presented?
  • Is a partisan view, bias, or some other agenda being presented?
  • is the information designed to sell a product or service?

What is the level of the language used?

Language is a good indicator of the information's quality.

  • Is the language scholarly or educational?
  • Is the language inflammatory, sensational or otherwise persuasive?
  • Is the language low level or inappropriate for the particular subject?
  • Is the language specifically designed for students?

How current is the information?

Some subjects, such as medicine and social issues, demand very current information.  In other subject areas, such as literature, art or history, information published several years ago may be just as valulable.

  • Is the information up-to-date?
  • Do newer editions or revisions exist?

Does the resource have a bibliography, works cited or a list of references?

The presence of a bibliography is one indication of quality.

  • Does the author provide sources for facts used?
  • What types of references have been used to support the document?  Are they scholarly sources (academic journal articles, books, conference papers) or popular sources (magazines, newspapers, most websites)?  The types of resources listed in the works cited indicate the level and quality of research for the information.

Who is the Author?

  • Is the author named?  Are his/her qualifications, credentials, and professional affilations given?
  • Can you identify an institution to which the author belongs?
  • Is the contact information for the author included or easily accessible?
  • has the author been mentioned in other resources?
  • What information do you retrieve about the author from a Google search?

Who published the information?

Reputable publishers normally produce reliable, quality information?

  • Do you know the publisher's reputation?
  • What type of information does the publisher normally produce?
  • What information do you retrieve about the publisher from a Google search?
  • Did the author pay to have the information published?  Was it produced by a self-publishing company?

Evaluating Websites

     You should apply the evaluation techniques above to any information you find on the Internet.  You need to cite information from the Internet just as you would any other type of resource.  It is often difficult to evaluate the quality of information retrieved from the Internet becasue of the lack of documentation.  Although there is a lot of information available on the Internet, not all of it is useful, accurate, up-to-date, unbiased, and/or appropriate for your research.

The following are some additional characteristics for you to consider:

  • Who is responsible for creation and maintenance of the website?
  • Are other information links provided?
  • Is thesite subject to influences over content?  For example, a commercial or political organization?
  • Are the pages current and updated regularly?
  • Is the website user friendly?  Is there an index, site map, or other navigation links to the site information?
  • Is the layout of the website professional or amateur?
  • Is there contact information?
  • Is there a disclaimer?

Carefully look at the web address domain or URL information.  Below are some widely recognized examples:

  • .gov - government site
  • .com - commercial site
  • .edu - educational institution
  • .org - organization (note:  not all .org sites are official.  Checking the information under "about us" on the site will often alert you of this.)
  • .net - networks of some organizations or Internet service providers
  • ~ (tilde) - indicates a personal page even if sponsored by a reputable institution or university
  • % - can indicate a group site