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ENC 1101 (Dauer) Life Scenario Essays: Evaluating Sources

The 5 Ws & 1 H

When evaluating a source, ask yourself Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?. These questions can be shortened into "The 5 Ws & 1 H". 

Who made the information?

  • Identify the author (can be a person or group)
    • Can be located at top or bottom of source
  • Look for their qualifications. They should be an expert or qualified to write on the topic.
    • These can be listed in the "About Us" section of a website, there might be a few sentences under the author's name, or you might be able to click the author's name in a source to find out more about them. 
    • Check other sources. Open up a new tab in your browser and Google the author's name to find out more info

What information is in the source?

  • Does it meet your research need?
    • If it is off topic or doesn't meet your professor's requirements, find a better source
  • Is the information complete and comprehensive?
    • Stay away from sources that only present one side of the story or issue

When was the information created or updated?

  • An older source isn't necessarily a "bad source". If you're researching a historical event or timeless discipline like philosophy, an older source may be appropriate
  • Consider what you're researching. Is it a rapidly changing field like medicine or technology? Consider using newer sources

Where is the information coming from?

  • Is it from a reputable newspaper? A peer-reviewed journal? How about a casual blog? Or a news station that has a bad reputation?
    • Do some detective work to see if the organization, publisher, or source associated with your information is reliable
      • Look at other sources to see what they have to say 
        • example: Google The Wall Street Journal's reputation or BuzzFeed's reputation to get an idea about each organization

Why was the information created?

  • Think about purpose. To inform? Entertain? Persuade? Sell?
  • Is the source strongly biased?
    • Some degree of bias is unavoidable, but keep an eye out for over exaggerated, emotional word choice and tone

How is the information verified?

  • Are there links that show you where the author got their information from?
  • Is there a citation list?
  • Was the source peer-reviewed? 
    • Remember, peer-review is a process where a source is reviewed by a panel of experts for accuracy and quality. Once revisions are made, the source is published


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