Evaluating Information

Resources and processes to consider a source's bias, credibility, and relevance.

What is the source's bias?

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How is a topic depicted across the political spectrum?

News

Websites

Domains to know:

.com for commercial 

.gov governmental departments, agencies, programs, tribes, U.S. territories, cities, towns, counties

.mil U.S. Department of Defense (including United States’ military branches)

.edu for accredited American educational institutions

.org originally for non-profit organizations, now open registration

Fact Checkers

Tool to guide you through evaluating a website

How do I assess a source?

Establish how current and up to date the information is.

 

Check the key ideas and level of detail makes it relevant to answering your question by adding to your current knowledge level without overly complex or technical writing. 

 

Check the author and organizational affiliation to establish their qualifications and authority to speak on the topic

 

Identify claims and the information supporting them. Look for loaded words and appeals to emotion. Verify information in other sources to be sure it is accurate.

 

Determine the primary purpose for the information

  • document
  • entertain
  • inform
  • persuade
  • provoke
  • sell

 

See the Detailed Source Evaluation Guide

Trusted Sources

When you encounter information you don't know to be true, you can check your source against the information available in a trusted source. 

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A very good way to identify reliable information

Why evaluate information?

Evaluation makes space to challenge information and demand answers. Who says so? Why do they say so? Why was this information created? Why should I trust this source? How is it known to be true? Why should I believe it? Is the argument reasonable? Who supports it? Is it the whole truth? What other perspectives should I seek out?

The Information Cycle

There are certain patterns in the ways that events contribute to knowledge. These patterns help us evaluate different kinds of information more effectively. 

 

We start with an event. As time passes, people have more information to interpret and more time to process that information. The information cycle follows this move from reacting, to explaining, looking at the broad impact, deeply analyzing details, and finally, in-depth overviews and analysis

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Day of

For quick distribution to general audiences; information updates regularly

 

Authors are generally unaffiliated

  • Journalists who are on social media often list their employer, but state on the account "all views are mine"

  • endless unknown participants

Most limited in scope; lacks full details

 

Evaluate claims closely; the most immediate information has the least oversight in publication

Next Day(s)

More factual information, quotes, photographs, relevant statistics, timelines, and editorial coverage intended for general audiences.

 

Authors are professional journalists

 

News provides explanations and timelines of the event begin to appear

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Next Week(s)

Long form stories begin to discuss the impact on society, culture, and public policy

 

More detailed analyses, interviews, and various perspectives emerge

 

Authors are professional writers, scholars, and experts in the field.

 

Intended for a general audience or specific nonprofessional groups

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6 Months+

Scholarly arguments with a factual basis, related to accepted academic context

 

Focused, detailed analysis and theoretical, empirical research

 

Peer-reviewed, ensuring high credibility and accuracy

 

Authors include scholars, researchers, and professionals

 

Intended for an audience of scholars, researchers, and university students

1 Year+

Books and Government Reports

 

In-depth coverage ranging from scholarly in-depth analysis to popular books

  • Authors range from scholars to professionals to journalists
  • Includes reference books which provide factual information, overviews, and summaries

 

Government Reports from federal, state, and local governments, departments, and agencies

  • Authors include governmental panels, organizations, and committees
  • Often focused on public policy, legislation, and statistical analysis
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