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Anyone can put a page on the Internet. Even books and journals can be inaccurate, biased or simply outdated. Here are some ways to be sure the sources you use are appropriate for your research.
Who wrote this? Does the author have the expertise to write on this topic?
Is the information in this source up-to-date?
The accuracy of your source may be affected by the date it was published. Some ideas once believed to be true were later disproved by new discoveries. Fields such as medicine or law might require more time-sensitive information than fields like philosophy or history.
Is the information in this source biased?
Publishers may have their own agendas when they choose to publish books and magazines. For example, they may hire authors whose writing reflects the values of their publishing company. Information on a web site may reflect the opinions of the organization or individual posting the site. Your task is to identify the publisher of the source, and determine whether the publisher's policies or bias influence the information. To help you decide, consider the following:
Is this source appropriate for your research?
You and your instructor are the best people to determine if a source is appropriate for your research. Remember that all sources you use should contain well-supported arguments and valid research. Since it is easy to falsify information on the Web, you should look closely at the sources you select online.
If all else fails, ask a librarian – they are there to help you!
A handy tool - evaluating resources with the SIFT method
Lateral Reading - a crucial tool in your evaluation arsenal. This entire video series with John Green is available on Youtube, and includes videos on evaluating photos and videos, fact-checking, social media, and much more!