Module 5: Evaluating

Copyright 2009-
Ryan Memorial Library
Information Literacy Porta

5.0 Objectives


  • Develop basic set of criteria for evaluating information sources.
  • Know how to evaluate an author and publisher of a source.
  • Know how to judge a source's usefulness, based on currency, content and relevance.
  • Know how and why to pay closer attention to Websites and their evaluation.



5.1 Credibility


Author's Credibility


Do you believe everything you read? Knowing more about an author can help you judge her or his credibility.

Author's Credibility Self-Quiz
Instructions: If you were writing about the relationship between human activity and the temperature of the earth, whose work would you choose to include in your paper? Look for clues that suggest their level of expertise and/or bias.
An atmospheric physicist at Winston University and founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a think tank on climate and environmental issues.
A Washington Post staff writer who has written articles such as "Arctic Ice Shelf Crumbles Into Sea," "In Infrastructure Debate, Politics Is Key Player," and "President's Reform Efforts Get Results."
Current president of Greater Chipiwick Environmental Club, and publisher of a Web site that discusses the major causes of global warming in the last 100 years.

In terms of evaluating an author, credentials include degrees received, titles held, professional affiliations, years of activity in a field, publication history, fields of inquiry, and the characteristics of publications in which their work has appeared.

Publisher's Credibility

Similar to judging an author's credentials, knowing more about a publishing company can help you understand their potential biases. Keep in mind that publishing standards vary for each publishing house. XYZ Publishing may print anything that will bring a profit, whereas H. University Press may screen all information they publish to ensure the validity of the content, protecting their reputation.

categories of publishers:
  • Commercial publishing houses like Macmillan, Time/Warner, or Knopf.
  • University Presses, like the University of Washington Press or Michigan State University Press.
  • Associations, societies, businesses, industries, and services that publish their own periodicals, newsletters, staff training documents, operating schedules, brochures, etc.
  • Governments and intergovernmental bodies, such as the United Nations.
  • Web publishers, which includes anyone with access to a computer network and a host computer to store and deliver their publications, including the "traditional" publishing houses.


5.2 Usefulness


Usefulness Self-Quiz
Instructions: Before reviewing the questions below, select one of the following sources as most useful for a research paper on the current use of primates in scientific laboratories?
"Monkeys in our Labs," by Scott Gottieber, a USA Today staff writer. Published in USA Today Dec 15, 1989. Includes chart, "Number of Test Primates in the US, 1975-1985."
Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group website. LPAG is a nonprofit organization. Website last updated in 2001. "LPAG believes that the laboratory is no place for monkeys and nonhuman great apes."
"Better numbers on primate research," by Constance Holden. Published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Appeared in Science, a scholarly publication, on March 30, 2001.

When deciding whether or not an information source is useful in the context of your research, you should consider the following issues regarding content. Click on the linked term to the right of each issue for a set of activities that will clarify your understanding of each:

Issue   Term
Are the goals for this publication clearly stated?
Is there a particular bias evident? Is the viewpoint of the author's affiliation reflected in the message or content? Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched?
Does this appear to be quality work?
Is the information well-organized? Has the author used good grammar? Are the graphics - images, tables, charts, diagrams - appropriate and clearly presented?
How does it cover your topic?
Is it comprehensive? an overview? highly detailed and narrowly-focused? Does the work update other sources?
Does the work address your research question or meet the requirements of your assignment?
Is the content appropriate for your research topic or assignment?

Evaluation Review

Locate critical reviews in various sources. See:

Tips for Finding Book Reviews

Is the review positive, negative or mixed? Even if it is negative, it might include useful information such as other books that the reviewer considers better. If so, locate these sources for more information on your topic. Negative or mixed reviews can still provide valuable background on the topic, especially if it has aroused controversy among the critics.


5.3 Evaluating Websites


The Web is an excellent source of information for:


Examine: Credentials of the producer or sponsor delivering the information


Consider: Information currency at the time of publication

  • Check the frequency of updates
  • Look for dates, updates, revision dates
  • Avoid undated information sources


Consider or determine: Why was the site created?

  • To inform
  • To entertain
  • To advertise/sell a product
  • To promote a point of view or belief
  • To spoof or as a sham or hoax

Extra Materials

To see the University of Idaho Libraries criteria for website evaluation, click below:

Website Evaluation Criteria


5.4 Evaluation Summary Exercise


The University of Wyoming Library’s Tutorial for Information Power (TIP) does a great job of summing up all the evaluation points to consider when choosing information sources. TIP uses a memorable acronym, CRAAP (CRAAP acronym used courtesy of Merriam Library, California State University, Chico) to help us remember the criteria: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.

Click on the link below to visit TIP: