The ABC3 of Website Evaluation
Anyone can publish information online and there is no overall fact checker of the Internet. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the information you find for your assignments or your own personal interests. The ABC3 method of website evaluation highlights important points to consider as you research online sources: Authority, Bias, Content, Currency, and Consistency.
Authority – Authority refers to who wrote the information and why you should trust them. Check to see if the author has credentials on the subject matter in terms of a degree and/or extensive experience. This helps verify that they are qualified to write about the topic. The author’s name is typically listed under the title and is commonly hyperlinked. Be aware that sometimes author does not refer only to one person but it can be a group of people, an organization, company, and so on.
Locating the author:
Bias – Bias refers to the level of which the author’s personal beliefs, opinions, or interests are displayed in the information. Is the author trying to make you feel a certain way? Are the author’s words emotionally charged? Can you tell how the author feels about the subject? Also, take a look at the sponsors to see who is funding the information to ensure they are not swaying the objectivity of the message being conveyed. Lastly, consider your own bias or experiences that may impact how you interpret the information you find.
Content – Content refers to the information contained in the article. Does it make sense? Is it appropriate for your intended audience? What was the editing process? How is the information researched? What is the content type (entertainment, education, research, informational, etc.)?
Currency – Currency refers to when the information was written or last updated. How regularly is the website maintained?
Consistency – Many times your instructor will require you to include multiple sources in your research. This is to ensure you have a consensus on your topic and that you are not taking just one source’s word for it. Verify, verify, verify.
When it comes to evaluating sources, you have to make a judgment call. A good rule of thumb: if you're hesitant about a source's credibility, don't use it. Find a more credible source on your topic. Remember, librarians are available to help you find reliable sources!