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EAPS 360 Great Issues in Science and Society: How to Assess Information

Is the source trustworthy?

Remember, information's usefulness is almost always dependent on the context in which you intent to use it. The below characteristics will help you develop the argument that the information is credible or not. Here's a more extensive guide on this topic.  

Purpose  

  • What is the intended purpose of the information source?  Is there a particular agenda or bias evident? Can you discern the author's goal in writing the work?

Authority  

  • Who is the author/creator of the information? Is he/she the original author/creator? Is the person qualified?  What are his/her credentials?  What is his/her occupation? Given this, how authoritatively can they speak on the topic? If they cite other information, what can you say about the authority of those authors?

Accuracy  

  • Is the information accurate?  How does it compare with other sources on the subject?  Is it consistent with what else you know about the subject? Does it provide enough evidence to support its claim or position? Can you track down the information cited?

Objectivity  

  • Does the source present a balanced view of the different perspectives on the topic? Is the bias of the author/creator obvious? Is the source trying to convince you of a point of view? Is the website or publication in which the item appears sponsored, or endorsed by a political or other special interest group? If there are advertisements on the page, do they tell you anything about the objectivity of the information source? 

Date of Publication 

  • How important is currency to your topic? Is this research still relevant? Does it report facts from the actual time of the event or issue? Is it retrospective, providing some review or analysis of previous research? 

Scope / Depth / Breadth 

  • Is the source comprehensive for the entire field of study, presenting multiple viewpoints? Is it specialized, focusing on only certain aspects? Is it ethnocentric, reflecting the values or beliefs of a certain group? 

Intended Audience / Level of Information 

  • Who is the intended audience: the general public, the educated layperson, professionals, practitioners, scholars? Is it written at a level that is understandable and makes sense to you?  Consider the vocabulary used. Does it build on what you already know? Does it include a bibliography or links to additional sources to consult? 

Quality of Publication 

  • Do you know anything about the publisher of the source? Is it published, sponsored, or endorsed by a professional association, organization, or society? What other information does this organization publish? 

Ease of Use / Special Features 

  • Does the source contain a table of contents and/or an index to facilitate use and find the specific information you need? Is it well-organized? Does it include a bibliography? Does it contain graphs, tables, charts, illustrations, photographs, maps, or other special features that add to its usefulness?