Being able to accurately evaluate the information you find while doing research is a useful skill to have.  Academic libraries and the Internet are both large sources of information with extensive resources.  Both, libraries and the internet, develop their resources differently and evaluating what is there and available is not always easy.

In Libraries:

  • librarians develop plans and use specific criteria to add materials to the library
  • librarians try to only purchase high quality materials
  • each item collected is carefully cataloged or recorded into the library catalog
  • the size of the library is determined by its budget and physical space limits

On the Internet:

  • almost anyone can add anything to the Internet at anytime
  • no one makes plans for the entire Internet and how to present it
  • many Internet resources are poorly indexed or not indexed at all

Use the criteria listed below, and your search experience, to improve your ability to quickly and efficiently identify and evaluate library and/or Internet information references and resources.

Accuracy or credibility

  • Is the information provided based on proven facts?
  • Is it published in a scholarly or peer-reviewed publication?
  • Have you found similar information in a scholarly or peer-reviewed publication? 

Author or authority

  • Who is the author?
  • Is she or he affiliated with a reputable university or organization?
  • What is the author's educational background or experience?
  • What is their area of expertise?
  • Has the author published in scholarly or peer reviewed publications?
  • Does the author/Web Master provide contact information?

Coverage or relevance

  • Does the information covered meet your information needs?
  • Is the coverage basic or comprehensive?
  • Is there an "About Us" link that explains subject coverage?
  • How relevant is it to your research interests?

Currency

  • When was the information published?
  • When was the Web site was last updated. 
  • Is timeliness important to your information need?

Objectivity or bias

  • How objective or biased is the information?
  • What do you know about who is publishing this information?
  • Is there a political, social or commercial agenda?
  • Does the information try to inform or persuade?
  • How balanced is the presentation on opposing perspectives?
  • What is the tone of language used (angry, sarcastic, balanced, educated)?

Sources or documentation

  • Is there a list of references or works cited?
  • is there a bibliography?
  • Is there information provided to support statements of fact?
  • Can you contact the author or Web Master to ask for, and receive, the sources used?

Publication and website design

  • How well designed is the Web site?
  • Is the information clearly focused?
  • How easy to use is the information??
  • How easy is it to find information within the publication or Web site?
  • Are the bibliographic references and links accurate, current, credible and relevant?
  • Are the Contact addresses for the author(s) and Web Master(s) available from the site?