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Evaluating Information

We all want information that is accurate but unless you already know a lot about a topic how do you know if the information you are looking at is accurate and reliable? The following 5 criteria can help you to evaluate information in all formats:

  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Currency
  • Objectivity
  • Relevance

Accuracy

Accuracy is the degree to which the information is correct.

  • Can the information be verified in another source?
  • Are statements supported by evidence and/or citations?
  • Was the work edited by someone other than the author?

Authority

Authority is the degree to which the producers of the information are qualified to present that information.

  • Who is the author and what are his or her qualifications?
  • With what institutions or organizations is the author affiliated?
  • What work has the author published in this area previously?
  • How reputable is the publisher? - Is it published by a University Press or scholarly association?

Currency

Depending upon your research needs you may or may not need the most current research. If you work in the sciences or health care you will almost always want the most current work available. If you are in history or literature, materials published during a wide range of time periods will be appropriate.

  • When was the material published?
  • Is the date of publication appropriate for your field?
  • Is all of the content up-to-date?
  • Has the information been revised?

Objectivity

Almost all information is biased in some way. As a reader (or consumer of information) your job is to identify the point of view or motive of the author and then decide if the information at hand is appropriate for your needs.

  • Is the author open about his or her position?
  • Is the author trying to sway your opinion or advocate a particular position?
  • Is the material presented based upon research or the author's opinion?
  • Is the author (or publication) presenting the information in order to sell you something?

Relevancy

Relevancy is the degree to which the information meets your current research needs.

  • Does the information meet your research needs or the requirements of your assignment?
  • What new information does the material add to your research?
  • How might you use the information to further your research?

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