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I&E - Bauer: Evaluating Information

Evaluation Tools

Use these information sheets to ensure that you are using the right information for your purpose.

Be sure to know where it came from!

Finding information about any topic is not difficult, especially on the internet.  Recognizing when information is accurate, trustworthy, and relevant is where skill comes in.  When you find a resource you're tempted to use, be sure to ask yourself:

Who provides it?  Who authored the book, article, or website?  Is there a sponsoring organization or publisher?  Is the author/publisher/sposoring organization one who has the knowledge or experience to provide this type of information?  is he/she an authority on the subject?

What information is present?  Is the content actually relevant to your need? Just because your search term or topic is discussed, doesn't mean this piece of information is the type of information you need?  Is it scholarly enough? Can you understand it? 

Where did the information come from?  Are the facts, theories, and ideas backed up by other, unrelated sources of information? 

When was the information published? When were the author's references published.  Make sure the information isn't too old for your purposes.  If studying the history of the printing press, an article published in the 1960s is probably not outdated.  If researching the current use of leaches in medicine, an article from the 60s is too old.

Why was it published? Was it created to educate its reader?  Or is it trying to sell you a product?  Or is it's purpose to persuade you to believe something is right or wrong?  Look for bias in any publication you come across.

How it looks is less important, but misspellings and incorrect grammar indicate an author who may also be sloppy or imprecise with facts and data.