BCPS K-12 Research Guides Grades 9-12 HOME Research GLOSSARY Encounter the Research Task
Skill 4: Evaluate sources.

All sources, both Internet and print sources must be evaluated before you can include them in your research. Some sources contain bias. Although you may use these sources, you need to understand the bias before applying the material to your research. Other sources are not credible for one reason or another and should not be included at all. It is important to analyze sources for credibility and bias before you move forward with the research process.

Skill-builders & Tools
Evaluating Internet Resources

Internet resources should be evaluated to determine their credibility and relevance to your topic before selecting them for a research assignment. Use the criteria below to help you evaluate these resources.

See this video on evaluating internet resources:

 

Internet address (URL) domain extensions can be used to help determine authority and objectivity. A more complete list of two- and three- letter URL extensions is also available.
.gov - Government. The intent of the site is to present official information collected by or about the workings of a government.
.edu - Educational institution. The intent of the site is to educate as well as present information collected by or about the educational institution.
.com - Commercial. The intent of the site is to sell goods or services, as well as provide information about the company.
.org - Organization, usually non-profit. The intent of the site is to present information collected by or about the organization. Sometimes, the intent of the site is to promote a particular point of view.
.net - Network, usually personal Web pages. The intent of the site is as varied as the individual(s) responsible for the content.

Questions to consider when deciding if a website is credible:

  • Who Created the Information?
  • What are the qualifications of the author or organization responsible for the content of the resource?
  • What are the author's education and/or experience?
  • Is it a reputable Web site? Is there an "about us" link on the Web page that provides information about the organization?
  • Is it a commercial, governmental, educational or personal Web site? Often the URL domain's extension (.com, .edu, etc.) gives you a clue about the site.

Look for the author's biography or information about the responsible organization within the Web page itself or use the sources below to find out more about people and organizations:
Information on People: Biography.com
Information on Organizations: Idealist.org - information about foundations

Content & Coverage

  • Who is the audience for the Web site (scholarly or general)?
  • Is the information primary or secondary in nature?
  • Does it provide general background information or in-depth information on a specific topic? Which do you need?
  • Does the page link to other reputable websites/organizations? Is there a bibliography or list of cited references and how extensive is it?

Timeliness

  • Is there a date anywhere on the Web page, such as date created, last update, etc.?
  • How up-to-date are citations, if any? Are the links broken?
  • How current does the information need to be for your topic or assignment?

Accuracy

  • Is it a commercial, governmental, educational, personal Web site or bog?
  • Is it a community site in which any individual can make changes to such as Wikipedia?
  • Can you find the same information in another source?

Objectivity

  • Determine whether the information is fact, opinion or propaganda.
  • Are there links or references to show the source of the facts or quotes?
  • Does the Web site have a particular bias?
  • Are opinions or propaganda easy to recognize?
  • Do the words and phrases play to your emotions or bias the content?
  • Are there advertisements that suggest the information might be biased toward selling a product rather than providing objective information?
  • Can you determine from the Web site's address (URL) a particular bias? Often the URL domain's extension (.com, .edu, etc.) gives you a clue about the site.

Taken from http://library.csun.edu

See the student resources section for additional resources on evaluating websites.

Vocabulary
  • Evaluate - to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study.
  • Bias - prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
  • Objectivity – a lack of favoritism toward one side or another.
Student Resources
  • Information on Organizations: Idealist.org - information about foundations

question

Additional Resources for evaluating websites:

Teaching Resources

scales

DO NOW: After reviewing the materials above, choose a website that is appropriate for your research, and complete this activity to evaluate that source.

Evaluating Print Resources

Now that you have had some experience finding and evaluating internet based resources, see this guide from the Purdue University on some of the differences between evaluating online resources and evaluating print resources.

Due to the fact that most print sources are published and edited, print resources in general tend to be more reliable than some internet based sources. Even though this is the case, a thorough evaluation of print sources is required. The University of North Carolina has an excellent guide on verifying print sources. Some of the areas that you should very for each print source are listed below:

  • Author
  • Publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Tone
  • Authority of subject
  • Peer Review

After evaluating the basic information above, you should attempt to determine if the resource is objective, or if it contains bias. Bias resources may be used as long as you are aware of the bias, present the information in your findings appropriately. The University of Wisconsin has developed a four step process for examining bias in printed sources:

  • Accuracy
  • Coverage
  • Purpose
  • Evaluation

See the student resources section for additional resources for evaluating print materials.

Vocabulary
  • Evaluate - to determine the significance, worth, or condition of usually by careful appraisal and study.
  • Bias - prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
  • Objectivity – a lack of favoritism toward one side or another.
Student Resources
Additional resources for evaluating print materials:
Teaching Resources
DO NOW: After reviewing the materials above, choose a print resource that is appropriate for your research, and complete the activity from Cornell University on evaluating that source via the link below. Link: Evaluating a print resource
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