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