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English 1101 & 1102 - Library Research & Resource Basics: Evaluating Information

Why Does Information Quality Matter?

  1. You deserve the truth.  You should be able to make your own decisions and determinations, based on facts.
  2. Bad information destroys your credibility.  If your arguments are built on inaccuracies, it will be much more difficult for people (like your boss or your friends) to believe you in the future.
  3. Bad information can harm you.  Purveyors of fake and misleading medical information, for example, can lead people to avoid effective treatments.
  4. High quality information benefits you. For example, if you want to buy stock in a company, accurate articles about that company are important so you can invest wisely. 

This content adapted from information from Golden Gate University and is used under Creative Commons license.

Types of Publications

Peer-review/Refereed Journals published articles that are written by experts and reviewed by experts in the same field (their peers) to ensure high quality prior to publication.

Trade Publications are magazines and other publications written for a particular audience, such as the magazine American Libraries for librarians. Articles may be written by professional writers or members of the profession, and are generally selected by the publication's editor.

Mass-market Publications are magazines, newspapers and other publications written for a general audience, such as People magazine or the New York Times. Articles are usually written by journalists, and generally selected by the publication's editor.

Social Media, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is "websites and applications which enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking." Social media may be created by anyone who has access to it, and is not selected by an editor or expert.

Fake News

Types of Fake News:

  • Fake news - These are the easiest to debunk and often come from known sham sites that are designed to look like real news outlets. They may include misleading photographs and headlines that, at first read, sound like they could be real.
  • Misleading news - These are the hardest to debunk, because they often contain a kernel of truth: A fact, event or quote that has been taken out of context. Look for sensational headlines that aren't supported by the information in the article.
  • Highly partisan news - A type of misleading news, this may be an interpretation of a real news event where the facts are manipulated to fit an agenda.
  • Clickbait - The shocking or teasing headlines of these stories trick you into clicking for more information -- which may or may not live up to what was promised.
  • Satire - This one is tough, because satire doesn't pretend to be real and serves a purpose as commentary or entertainment. But if people are not familiar with a satire site, they can share the news as if it is legitimate.

These definitions are taken from a CNN article with Dr. Melissa Zimdars, of Merrimack College and Alexios Mantzarlos, head of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute.

Fact-Checking Resources

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluate the Resources and Information you find:

Don't blindly accept the information you find! Consider the source of the information and its context. Ask yourself key questions when evaluating source information:

Credibility - Who wrote or created a particular work? Is he/she an expert in the field of study? Is the piece from a peer-reviewed journal or a popular magazine? If it is a book, who published it - a university press, a trade press, a vanity press? If it is a website, who sponsored it?

Currency - How up-to-date is the information? Depending on your topic, you may need to rely on older resources, or you might need the most current scientific data available. If you are using a book or article, note when it was written. For a website, look for both when it was created and when it has last been updated.

Reliability - Does the person writing the piece have a possible agenda - how biased is the information presented? Are references included for information? Do you trust the source? Does the information in this work match what you have read in other sources?

Relevancy - How relevant is the information to your research needs? Is there something else that would fit your needs better?

Adapted from: Taylor, Terry. “Evaluating Information.”  100% Information Literacy Success. New York: Thomson,  2007. 101-39, &
Evaluating Information: Applying the CRAAP Test. Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.
http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf.  Oct 1, 2008. 

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