Evaluating Resources

With all the information available in this information age - thousands of books published each year, more magazines than you could possibly read in a lifetime, and millions of Internet web sites - how are you supposed to know which resources are best?

You cannot assume that everything is reliable. In fact, it is increasingly important to approach everything with a certain amount of skepticism. You need to be able to determine whether the information is reliable and useful.

Here are some factors to consider when judging the value of information. These apply equally to printed and electronic formats.

 

Authority
What are the author's qualifications? The source itself may provide some biographical information, or check biographical sources in the reference collection.
Is the author an expert on this topic? Has he or she written other material on the topic?
Is the publisher or sponsoring organization reputable?
Accuracy
How reliable and free from error is the information?
Are sources listed so the reader can verify the data?
Are there editors or other people who have checked the facts?
Objectivity
Is the information presented with a minimum of bias? If there is a bias, is it clearly stated?
Is the information trying to persuade the audience to change their opinion?
If there is advertising on the web page, is it clearly differentiated from the information content?
Currency
Is the information up-to-date?
Is currency important? Some subjects, like medicine or technology, require current information. Other subjects, like religion or history, may not need to be as current.
Is the publication date clearly noted? Does the web page indicate when it was written and last revised?
Suitability
Is your topic included in the work? Check the table of contents or index.
Are the topics explored in depth or superficially?
Is the language too technical or specialized? If so, choose something that's more appropriate.

 


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