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Social Welfare Policies & Services: Evaluation Info

This guide is designed to help students with their projects for Social Work Policy classes.

What's the Story Behind this Resource?

You'll gather a great deal of information from organizations' websites, but it's important to critically evaluate them so that you're certain of their purpose, funding ties, and you've checked to see if they cite accurate, up-to-date evidence.  

The following questions may help you determine an organization's purpose and perspective:

  1. What's their purpose?  How can you tell? (E.g. What’s their mission statement, do they publish anything?)

  2. What's their perspective?  How does it exhibit it’s perspective/bias? How can you tell? (E.g. What are their funding sources?  What can you find out about the founders’ experience and opinions?  Is there a diversity of opinions and faces?)

  3. When was the information last updated? How can you tell?

  4. Does this website link you to evidence to support any claims it makes?  Are there a variety of external sources?

  5. Would you use a site like this to support your project? Why or why not?

Remember, while these questions can help inform your understand of an organization, it's still up to you to determine if its work is relevant to your project.

Evaluating Articles and Books

Please consider these issues as you evaluate your books and articles.

Authority / Reliability / Credibility

  • The author is a well-known, well-respected expert in the field
  • The material has been peer-reviewed, which is a process of subjecting an author's scholarly work or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the field before publication.  
  • You have reason to trust that the information is accurate
  • The bibliography indicates that the author did sufficient research before writing this book or article
  • The information is up-to-date relative to other research in the field

Perspective/Objectivity/Purpose

  • The book or article addresses your research topic
  • The information is presented fairly, with all sides of the argument considered and given equal treatment
  • The information thoroughly and accurately covers the topic
  • It is not superficial information

The ABCs of Evaluating Websites

If you’re trying to evaluate a website, keep these ABCs in mind as you review your sources for quality:

Authority - Is the website's author listed along with his/her credentials?  Usually a URL with .edu, .org or.gov is more reliable than.com and .net

Bias - Is the website objective, presenting both sides of an issue? Or, is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view?  Who is the audience?  A certain political group, adults, children, researchers?  Depending on your purpose for using the website, the intended audience needs to be taken into consideration.

Currency - Is the website current, providing the 'created' date and 'last updated' information?

Note: One or more of the ABCs may be more important in evaluating a website, depending on the information you need.  For example, medical and scientific information usually needs to be current.  If you are trying to take a stand on an issue, a biased database may be acceptable as long as it is coming from a reliable source (authority).

Evaluation Acronym

Do you prefer an acronym to help you remember evaluation criteria?  In that case, just remember the CRAAP Test!  (Click here for a bit more of an explanation.) 

- Meriam Library