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CMP-125 (Rosenbaum, Spring_2020)

Research Writing

Evaluating Information

Evaluating information is a critical part of the research process and is a valuable skill that will help you in everyday use of information.

Developing this skill now will help you long after you have graduated.

Many criteria can be used to evaluate information, and we will focus on three:


   Who is responsible for writing the material? What are their credentials?


   How does this information relate to my topic? Will it help me to make a point?


   Was the information researched and written at a time apporpriate to your topic?


ANYONE can publish on the Web! What you see are a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Evaluate each website critically before using it for your research.

Use these 5 criteria to evaluate the information you find on a website.
  • Who is the author(s)?
  • Is the author an expert on the subject?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials?
  • Is there a way to contact the author(s)?
Unlike traditional information sources where editors or fact checkers are involved, there are no rules on the web.
  • Are there obvious errors in grammar or spelling?
  • Are there references provided for facts presented?
  • Can you verify the facts presented using other sources?
The purpose of a website is usually not clearly stated. 
Numerous websites are sponsored by those who want to sway opinion, advertise, or just have fun.
  • Is the information biased or appear to be promoting a specific political, religious, ideololgical viewpoint?
  • Are both sides of a controversial issue presented?
Often no dates are provided, or if they are it is not always clear if they refer to when the site was first published or last revised.
  • Is there a date confirming when the information was published?
  • When was the website last revised or updated?
  • Do the links work?
Coverage of a subject can vary depending on the author's intent.  It may be brief or more in depth with links to references.  It may actually be a hoax or a parody. 
  • Is the information in depth or general?
  • Is the purpose to inform or is it just a joke?


Now, step  back and ask yourself...
What is the intent of the website? 
Why has this information been put on the web?
Does it all add up?
Is it appropriate for your purpose? Why or why not?

Scholarly - Also known as academic, refereed, or peer-reviewed journals

PopularAlso known as general interest magazines

Trade MagazinesAlso known as professional or industry journals, newsletters, or magazines

If the articles you find do not cite sources or if you want to verify information, try some of these fact checking websites:

  • Emergent   "Emergent is a real-time rumor tracker. It's part of a research project with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University that focuses on how unverified information and rumor are reported in the media."
  •  Find non-partisan analysis of current public policy issues. This non-profit political fact-check website is operated and maintained by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
  • SourceWatch The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) publishes SourceWatch, this collaborative, specialized encyclopedia of the people, organizations, and issues shaping the public agenda.
  •  Check the veracity of some oft-quoted bits of information. Are they true or merely urban legends?
  • Whois  Lookup and search domain names, registration information to determine who is responsible for the website.

Take a look at the address or URL.  Do you know what the domain names are for websites?  Here are the ones you will see most often.

 .com = commercial

   .org = organization

.net = network

  • Internet service provider
  • Originally for network providers but could be commercial or individual sites now

 .gov = government


  edu = education