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English 102: College Writing (Prof. Ulevich): Evaluating

Evaluate What You Find

Scholarly & Popular Articles

Do you know how to tell the difference between a scholarly and a popular (i.e., non-scholarly) article? Check out the Scholarly Journal, Trade Magazine, & Popular Magazine guide for tips.

Websites

It is important to do some critical evaluation to decide whether what you find, particularly online sources of information, is appropriate and usable for your University research assignment. Questions asked when Evaluating Internet Resources, such as webpages, online videos, etc.,  provide useful guidance in determining the source, scope, currency, accuracy and bias of a site.

Evaluate a Website

Websites

It is important to do some critical evaluation to decide whether what you find, particularly online sources of information, is appropriate and usable for your University research assignment. When you are evaluating a website, the methods linked from Evaluating Internet Resources provide useful guidance in determining the source, scope, currency, accuracy and bias of a site. Below is one outline for helping determine whether a website would be a credible source of information.

How to Recognize an Informational Web Page

An Informational Web Page is one whose purpose is to present factual information. The URL Address frequently ends in .edu or .gov, as many of these pages are sponsored by educational institutions or government agencies.

Questions to Ask About the Web Page

Note: The greater number of questions listed below answered "yes", the more likely it is you can determine whether the source is of high information quality.

Criterion #1: AUTHORITY

  1. Is it clear who is responsible for the contents of the page?
  2. Is there a link to a page describing the purpose of the sponsoring organization?
  3. Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of the page's sponsor? That is, is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information? (Simply an email address is not enough.)
  4. Is it clear who wrote the material and are the author's qualifications for writing on this topic clearly stated?
  5. If the material is protected by copyright, is the name of the copyright holder given?

Criterion #2: ACCURACY

  1. Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source?
  2. Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)
  3. Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  4. If there are charts and/or graphs containing statistical data, are the charts and/or graphs clearly labeled and easy to read?

Criterion #3: OBJECTIVITY

  1. Is the information provided as a public service?
  2. Is the information free of advertising?
  3. If there is any advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?

Criterion #4: CURRENCY

  1. Are there dates on the page to indicate:
    1. When the page was written?
    2. When the page was first placed on the Web?
    3. When the page was last revised?
  2. Are there any other indications that the material is kept current?
  3. If material is presented in graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?
  4. If the information is published in different editions, is it clearly labeled what edition the page is from?

Criterion #5: COVERAGE

  1. Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?
  2. If there is a print equivalent to the Web page, is there a clear indication of whether the entire work is available on the Web or only parts of it?
  3. If the material is from a work which is out of copyright (as is often the case with a dictionary or thesaurus) has there been an effort to update the material to make it more current?

Copyright Jan Alexander & Marsha Ann Tate 1996-2005
Print copies of this checklist may be made and distributed provided that 1) They are used for educational purposes only and 2) The page is reproduced in its entirety. For any other use or for permission to make electronic copies, please contact the authors at Wolfgram Memorial Library, Widener University, One University Place, Chester, PA. 19013.

Evaluate an Article

Scholarly & Popular Articles

When you need to use popular and scholarly articles in your project, do you know how to tell which one is which? Identifying scholarly articles involves analysis of the article's content. The chart below is meant to help you in this process; any one criteria by itself may not indicate that an article is scholarly. For example, a 30 page photo spread about stars at the Academy Awards in People is probably not scholarly.

Length Longer articles, providing in-depth analysis of topics
Authorship Author an expert or specialist in the field, name and credentials always provided
Language/Audience Written in the language of the field for scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students)
Format/Structure Articles usually more structured, may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography
Special Features Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs
Editors Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field (refereed or peer-reviewed)
Credits A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always provided to document research thoroughly

Check out the Scholarly Journal v. Popular Magazine Articles guide for the full tips. Adapted from chart created by Celita DeArmond.

Evaluating Your Potential Resources

Be sure to critically evaluate resources to decide whether to use them for your research assignment! While you are deciding on a topic and narrowing its focus, you may collect resources that you don't use in the end.

Below is the CRAAP test list of criteria for deciding whether a resource is information you should use, which I have borrowed (for educational purposes only) from Meriam Library @ California State University, Chico. Some of the criteria apply only to web sites, but others can be applied to any resource. When evaluating websites, methods linked from Evaluating Internet Resources may provide additional useful guidance in determining the source, scope, currency, accuracy and bias of a website.

Evaluation Criteria

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • FOR WEB SITES: Are the links functional?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

 Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • FOR WEB SITES: Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?  (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Print copies of this checklist may be made and distributed provided that 1) They are used for educational purposes only and 2) The content of the page is reproduced here almost in its entirety. For any other use or for permission to make electronic copies, please contact the authoring library.

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