Websites are great sources of information - some of it good, some of it bad. The websites listed on the subpages of this guide should give you good information but always beware of information obtained on the open web.
Ever feel like you're drowning in information? In our information-rich age, we have a wealth of information available to us from a variety of sources.
We need research skills such as information evaluation to help us use information effectively. Critically evaluating information allows us to select the most useful sources--ones that are relevant and credible.
Identifying and using quality information sources will allow you to better understand your topic and will add credibility to your analyses and conclusions.
Applying a set of standards to information sources will help you judge their credibility and relevancy. The evaluation process will depend on the purpose for which you are using the information. If you are settling a bet with a friend about the dates the Back to the Future movies came out you may not dedicate too much time to evaluating your sources. If, however, you are researching for an academic or professional project or looking information to guide an important decision you will want to carefully scrutinize information sources before relying on them.
Good research involves using multiple sources of information. In addition to applying the CRAAP criteria, compare the information you find with that in other sources.
Is the information up-to-date enough for my topic?
Rapid advancements in science necessitate looking for very current information when researching in this area. In other areas of study, older information may still be valued. Consult multiple sources to ascertain if there have been recent substantial developments in the field.
Does the information pertain to my topic and cover it in enough depth to meet my needs?
Identifying a work's intended audience can help in determining its depth of coverage. Information for the general public will vary in depth. Information for children will be simple, while information aimed at professionals may require advanced training to understand.
Who is responsible for the content and what are their qualifications?
The following reflect positively on an author's authority to write about a subject
Publication by a scholarly press or being subject to the peer review process before publication also reflect positively on a work's authority.
Is the information reliable and free from error?
Authority often impacts accuracy. Experts and respected organizations strive to produce works with accurate information.
Is there support for the information given?
Any author who borrows information from another source should give credit to the original source through citations and a list of references. Works striving for accuracy will identify what information is borrowed and give the reader a complete reference so that he or she can locate the original source.
Evaluate accuracy in terms of your whole research project.
Is the information presented without bias or is the bias acceptable for my purpose?
Why was the work created? Is its purpose to entertain, inform or explain, persuade, sell products or services, or a combination of these things? A work's purpose will influence what information is included and how it is presented. If a work is meant to persuade, the work's authors may exclude information that detracts from their case or place more emphasis on information that supports their arguments.
Beware of hidden agendas
Some works may appear to be informative or explanatory when in fact they are expressing opinions or advocating for certain positions.
Using biased works
You may choose to use biased sites in your research. The important thing is to recognize that the works you are using are biased and to balance the information you find there with that found in other sources.
There are plenty of data sets and statistics available. To find websites with datasets or statistics that you can use, see the more specific guides:
Open Educational Resources include books, assignments, labs, illustrations, lesson plans, and many other materials designed to help you teach your class. OER are available for free and can often be modified to fit a particular use.
Although the Internet provides access to a great deal of useful information, users should carefully evaluate the quality of each Web resource consulted.
Consult the library's guide on Information Evaluation for more information.