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Evaluating Information Sources

Learn how to evaluate and critique information sources.

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Main Criteria

This gives you questions to think about when looking at sources as well as resources to help you determine the credibility of certain information organizations. 

Main Criteria

Instead of automatically accepting information at face value, you should consider the:

  1. context 
  2. purpose, and
  3. intended audience 

A couple clues and pitfalls to watch out for: 

  • Biased language/general use of language
  • Websites you cannot get back to
  • No author or no information on an author
  • The other places the same news story appears

What kind of source should I use? The Information Spectrum

There are so many information sources out there! What kinds are best to use for your paper? Why? How do you recognize them? Check out the "Know Your Sources" infographic from  Portland Community College. 

Information Spectrum

The information spectrum shows the range of sources, why they’re useful, and how quickly they are published.  If you are looking for what’s happening now or up to the minute news, try social media and blogs.  If you are looking for current daily info, popular events, general opinion, or crowd-sourced info, try online news sources, general websites, Wikipedia, or online magazines.  These sources are published online and moment to moment.  They are the quickest forms of publication. If you are looking for original research focused on a topic, data, or statistics, try searching in scholarly journals, books, .gov sites, .edu sites. If you are looking for in-depth look at topics or historical info, search in books, scholarly journals, historical newspapers, magazines and trade journals, or general websites.  If you need credible background information or a broad overview of topics, search in subject encyclopedias or reference books.  These sets of sources take months to years to publish.  They can be found in print and digital formats.

"Information Spectrum" infographic accessible text.

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