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Critically Analyzing Information Sources


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Title: Critically Analyzing Information Sources

Critically Analyzing Information Sources
  • http//

  • Why do we need to evaluate all sources?
  • Why do we need to evaluate what we find on the
  • How do I begin my research and avoid running into
  • How do we evaluate all of these sources?

Why we need to evaluate all Sources
  • In the research process you will encounter many
    types of sources but not everything you find will
    be suitable.
  • Authors have different purposes and may not be
    credible, reliable or objective.
  • Some sources can be out-of-date or incorrect
    (e.g.. Is Pluto a planet?)

Why we need to evaluate what we find on the
  • Anyone can and probably will put anything on the
  • E.g. http//
  • It is often difficult to tell
  • Many things are not filtered or reviewed on the
    internet by a refereeing process, by peers or an
    authority, by publication or editor, by
  • http//

  • http//
  • Is it the original? Has it been quoted out of
    context? Plagiarized?
  • http//

How do I begin my research and avoid these
  • Identify and develop your topic
  • Identify YOUR purpose. Is your research topic
    formal or informal?

FORMAL (e.g.. Formal scientific research) INFORMAL (e.g.. Essay on popular culture or political bias)
-need peer edited info. -validated by qualified professionals -can reference informal or primary sources that represent different points of view
  • Work from general to specific
  • Find background information from trustworthy
    places. ( Databases, encyclopedias, known experts
    in the field, your textbook and lecture notes)
  • Learn to evaluate what you find.
  • Cite what you find.

Evaluating Sources Basic Principles
  • Evaluating sources requires you to think
    critically by asking a series of questions.
  • Quantity
  • -you need enough resources to support your
    argument/findings/ thesis/hypothesis
  • -need to include a variety of viewpoints and

  • Diversity
  • -include many different resources
  • Primary sources (contemporary accounts of an
    event and original documents, novels, poems
  • Secondary Sources (Retrospective sources based on
    primary resources include scientific or
    scholarly analysis such as books, reviews)

Look at the specific resource
  • Author /Authority - what are the credentials or
    the authors affiliation, educational background,
    past work, or experience?
  • -Has this author been cited before?
  • Currency when was the source published?
  • - is it current or out-of-date for your topic?

  • Publisher if the source is published by
    University Press, it is likely to be scholarly
    but you still need to evaluate it.
  • Intended Audience- What is its purpose? Is to
    persuade? Educated? Entertain?
  • Style- Is it organized logically? Are the main
    points clearly presented? Is it repetitive?

  • Reviews- locate critical reviews of books in a
    reviewing source.
  • Is the review positive? Is it considered a
    valuable contribution to the field? Are other
    (better) books mentioned?
  • Use the checklist given to you today

Evaluating Websites
  • 1. What can the URL tell you?
  • Questions to ask
  • Is it someones personal page?
  • Look for a personal name (e.g., jbarker)
    following the (), a percent sign (), or the
    words users, members, or people.
  • e.g. http//

  • What type of domain does it come from?
  • (Not always straightforward clues. E.g.
  • )

URL What it means
.org non-commercial organizations
.biz business organizations
.com Commercial organizations
.edu Educational organizations
.gov government
.info information organizations
.net Network-related organizations

  • Who published the page?
  • In general, the publisher is the agency or
    person running the server computer from which the
    document is issued.
  • The server is named in first portion of the URL
    (between http//and the first /)
  • E.g.. http// but
  • E.g.. http//
  • -have you heard of this server before and does it
    correspond with the name of the site?

2. Scan the perimeter of the page.
  • 1. Look for links that say about us,
    Philosophy, Background, etc.
  • 2. If you cant find these links, you can
    truncate back the URL.
  • -delete the end characters of the URL stopping
    just before each/(leave the slash). Press enter.
    Continue the process until you locate the first
    single / which is preceded by the domain name.

Let us try
  • Lets say I wanted information on war brides
  • http//

  • Is it dated and current?
  • -look for the last updated

  • What are the credentials of the author?
  • -does the author look qualified?
  • -if you cant find strong, relevant credentials,
    look closely at documentation of sources.
  • -you should hold the author to the same degree of
    credentials, authority and documentation that
    youd expect from something published.

3. Content
  • Look for links, additional sites, related
    links, etc.
  • If you see footnotes or documentation, take the
    time to explore them.
  • Are the links good ones?
  • Where did the author get information?

  • An exception to documentation may be journalism
    from highly reputable newspapers. But these are
    not scholarly.
  • (talk to your teacher first)
  • Are the links well chosen and provide a balanced
    view or do they indicate bias?

4. Is it considered Reputable?
  • Use URL information and click on
    overview. It will show details on the volume
    of traffic to the page.
  • Wayback Machine provides an archive of what the
    page looked like in the past. http//www.archive.o

  • Do a link search in Google and copy the URL
    into the search box immediately following (link)
  • http//
  • Look up the authors name in Google
  • e.g.. Samantha Webauthor (in quotes as a

5.Purpose of the Web Page
  • Why was the page put on the web?
  • -inform, give facts, give data?
  • -persuade, explain
  • -sell, entice
  • -disclose e.g. http//

  • What is the tone of the page
  • -Is it humorous? A parody? Exaggerated?
  • -Are there outrageous photographs?
  • Is this as credible and useful as the resources
    (books, journal articles, etc.) available in
    print or online through the library?

And finally
  • Remember that it is easy to be fooled and this
    can make you look foolish in turn.
  • If in doubt, leave it out!

Works Cited
  • n.d Teaching Library, UC Berkeley. 17 Apr.
  • n.d. 17 Apr.