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COM 211 (Fall 2020)

Is this the best source of information?

Evaluating your information sources is an essential practice when doing research. As you find information ask yourself if this is the best source of information. What makes something the best source of information? Use the following criteria to judge the quality of the information you encounter.

Continue to practice this habit, not just for your assignments, but also in your everyday lives. You can also apply this criteria to judge the information that you use in making health, financial, and voting decisions. 

Evaluative Criteria

Authority

Authority refers to the reputation and / or expertise of the source's author (often the source's publisher, too).

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Credibility

Authority isn't enough on its own, and even experts get it wrong sometimes. What else makes the source reliable?

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Purpose

Purpose refers to the intent of the information. Is the source trying to convince you of something? Is the source a response to previous research in the area? Is the source a response to a lack of information in a specific area?

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Timeliness

In most cases, you should look for sources published in the last 5-10 years. If you're writing about something that happened in the past, though, older sources might be helpful.

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Special considerations for...

Books

  • Most non-fiction books will include references to their sources.
  • Look for book reviews if you have doubts about the credibility of a book. Ask a librarian if you need help finding book reviews.

Articles

  • In scholarly and professional journals, authors will usually include citations for their sources.
  • In magazines and newspapers, authors may include quotes from experts. You can search Google for more information on those experts.

Websites

  • There are no special considerations for websites.

Social Media

  • Social media and search engines are purposely designed to show you things you might be interested in, or agree with. Try to make sure you're getting a variety of perspectives. 
  • Remember that posts on social media are meant to be brief, by design.
    • Because of the limited space, people may not be able to provide all their sources or facts in a post.
    • Don't be afraid to ask someone for clarification if you need it.
    • Be wary of clickbait ("This One Weird Trick...") and things that sound too crazy to be true.
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