Evaluating Information

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How do you decide what information is accurate and worth using? These guidelines can be applied to print and electronic information; however here, they refer to Web sites. If you are researching a topic that requires current information, a book dating back to 1970 will be outdated for your purposes.

Authority What credentials does the author have that make him/her qualified to write on a subject? Who produced the Web site?  Is the author affiliated with an institution? Is this Web page authentic or a hoax?
Currency Does the site have a date? When was the last time it was updated? Is the information outdated? Are there dead links?
Comprehensiveness If there is a print version of an article, is the online article the complete version of the print?
Validity Everything is biased to a certain extent. It is important to see just how slanted a bias is. Is there a political agenda? What is the purpose of the site, to advertise or to instruct? Is it someone’s informal opinion?
Target Audience Is it intended for professionals, scholars, students, laypersons, or children? Is the level of material appropriate for your research?
References Are valid references given to back up the research? References provide further avenues for information as well as opportunities to verify the facts.

These six criteria are easier to verify in print sources than online information. Books and journals have a specific format for recording author, date of publication and references. The same is not always true for information found on the Internet.  Anyone can contribute to the online Wikipedia; however, not everyone is qualified.