Currency: The timeliness of the information
When was the information published or posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?
Are the links functional? *
* Indicates criteria for Web only
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 elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining that this is the one you will use?
Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? *
Examples: .com, .edu, .gov, .org, .net *
* Indicates criteria for Web only
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
Can you verify any of the information in another source or from your own personal knowledge?
Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free from emotion?
Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
Rationale is important because books, articles, and web pages are made to serve a purpose. They can educate, entertain, or sell a product or point of view. Some sources may be frivolous or commercial in nature, providing inaccurate, false, or biased information. Other sources are more ambiguous about any potential partiality. Varied points of view can be valid if they are based on good reasoning and careful use of evidence.
1. Why did the author or publisher make this information available? Is there a sponsor advertising? Who pays to help make this information available?
2. Are alternative points of view presented?
3. Does the author omit any important facts or data that might disprove their claim?
4. Does the author use strong emotional language? Are there other emotional clues such as all caps?
Authority is important in judging the credibility of the author’s assertions. In a trial regarding DNA evidence, a jury would find a genetics specialist’s testimony far more authoritative compared to a testimony from a random person off the street.
1. What are the author’s credentials?
2. Is the author affiliated with an educational institution or a prominent organization?
3. Can you find information about the author in reference books or on the internet?
4. Do other books or articles on the same research topic cite the author?
5. Is the publisher of the information source reputable?
6. If it’s on the internet, is it fabricated or intended as satire? Check the “About”page and Google it with the word “fake”to make sure it’s legit.
Date, or currency, is important to note because information can quickly become obsolete. Supporting your research with facts that have been superseded by new research or recent events weakens your argument. Not all assignments require the most current information; older materials can provide valuable information such as a historical overview of your topic. In some disciplines, the date of the source is less important.
1. When was the information published or last updated?
2. Have newer articles been published on your topic?
3. Are links or references to other sources up-to-date?
4. Is your topic in an area that changes rapidly,like technology or science?
5. Is the information obsolete?
Accuracy is important because errors and untruths distort a line of reasoning. When you present inaccurate information, you undermine your own credibility.
1. Are there statements you know to be false? Verify an unlikely story by finding a reputable outlet reporting the same thing.
2. Was the information reviewed by editors or subject experts before it was published? Was it fact-checked? How do you know?
3. Do the citations and references support the author’s claim? Are the reference correctly cited? Follow the links. If there are no references or bad references, this could be a red flag.
4. What do other people have to say on the topic? Is there general agreement among subject experts?
5. If applicable, is there a description of the research method used? Does the method seem appropriate and well-executed?
6. Was the item published by a peer-reviewed journal, academic press, or other reliable publisher?
7. If there are pictures, were they photo-shopped in? Use a reverse image search engine like TinEye to see where an image really comes from.
8. For websites, what is the domain? Fake sites often add “.co”to trusted brands (e.g. abcnews.com.co)
Relevance is important because you are expected to support your ideas with pertinent information. A source detailing Einstein’s marriage would not be very relevant to a paper about his scientific theories.
1. Does the information answer your research question?
2. Does the information meet the stated requirements for the assignment?
3. Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?
4. Who is the intended audience?
5. Does the source add something new to your knowledge of the topic?
6. Is the information focused on the geographical location you are interested in?