We make better decisions and construct more convincing arguments when we understand the quality of the information we're using. In an academic context our ability to create knowledge and meaning depends on our ability to analyze and interpret information with precision.
To evaluate information is to analyze information from a critical perspective.We also need to consider the relationships among different sources and how they work together to form “conversations” of diverse perspectives surrounding a particular research question.
The questions that follow can help you think through the evaluation of information sources. Keep in mind that evaluation is not simply about determining whether a source is “reliable” or “not reliable.” Instead, it's more useful to consider the degree to which a source is reliable for a given purpose. The primary goal of evaluation is to understand the significance and value of a source in relation to other sources and your own thinking on a topic.
Use the following questions to help you think through the significance and value of information sources in relation to a particular research project or other information need. Please note that the broad categories below overlap and are not intended to be analyzed in isolation from each other.
Some questions have been adapted from Linda Elder and Richard Paul’s The Aspiring Thinker’s Guide to Critical Thinking (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009) and Colleen Bell and Paul Frantz’s Critical Evaluation of Information Sources (University of Oregon Libraries, 2012).