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IT 101 Living in a Digital Society: Evaluating Sources

Research process overview for students in IT 101

Criteria for Evaluating Websites

Keep these ABCs in mind as you review websites 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.  Example: medical & 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).

Google Search Tips

You can find quality websites by doing a Google advanced search and specifying one of the following domains:

.edu (education) 

.gov (government) 

.org (organization)

1.  On the Google website, select advanced search: 

2. At search within a site or domain, enter .gov .org or .edu.  Note that you need to specify one domain at a time:

3.  In the above example, the websites will all be from a .gov domain.  You will still need to review the website ABCs, but generally a domain search will yield better results.

Scholarly vs. Popular Publications

Scholarly Journals are periodicals written for an audience of scholars and researchers in a particular field.  This type of journal usually contains peer-reviewed articles.  Below are examples of what scholarly and peer-reviewed journals look like.

Ethnicity and Race in a Changing World     Journal of Gender Studies     Race & Class

Popular Magazines are not recommended for scholarly research.  They are usually written by staff writers for a general audience.  Below are examples of what popular magazines look like.


      

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.  Articles from peer-reviewed journals have been reviewed by other scholars 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