As the amount of published information continues to grow exponentially, it is important to think critically and evaluate your sources. Content is published by individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and countries. Note that there is no automatic formal review of some published content. While the content on the Ithaca College Library's website and in our print, media, and online collections has been selected by professional librarians, other content may be published and/or posted on the Web by non-experts. The ability to evaluate the information you find is a key critical thinking skill.
While there are many criteria that you can use to judge a source, we recommend looking at Author, Review, Date, Bias, and Sources. Below you'll find more information on how to evaluate using those criteria.
When you're looking at a source, pay attention to who wrote it. Are they qualified to write about this issue? Should you trust them? You should check the authors of books and articles, but this is especially important when you're looking at blogs and websites. Here are some things to consider:
Books, articles, and newspapers all undergo some form of review process. Scholarly books and articles will be reviewed by editors and experts in the field to check for accuracy and to assess the research methodology. Newspapers are reviewed by an editor. However, many sources you can find online have not had any review. Blogs, websites, podcasts, and other online sources are easily self-published. That means that there has been no one to check if the information is accurate. Here are some things you'll want to consider when looking at a source:
The currency of information is essential for some types of research and less so for others. Historical information that reflects people and events that have occurred in the past is relevant to historical research in many fields. In other fields such as health care, legislation, and finance, current information is used in research. Here are some things to consider:
Check the bottom of a webpage for the publication date, copyright date, or date last updated information. The copyright information for physical materials is listed in the catalog record and/or the bibliographic information.
Scholarly sources will always list the sources used, generally in the form of a bibliography. Other information types, like websites and blogs, might list sources but may not. You should always be skeptical of information that doesn't list a source, since you don't know where the information came from. When you review sources, check:
All information can have bias - being aware of what a source is trying to convince you of and why can help you decide whether it is trustworthy or useful. To evaluate the bias of a source consider:
Want to test your ability to evaluate sources? Read this guide then take the quiz!