As more and more information becomes available on the Internet, it is important that you understand how to assess the credibility and accuracy of any information you use in your study and research. Using credible sources in your assignments can help translate into better marks.
Below are some questions that you may want to consider to help you evaluate information you discover on the Internet. These questions can help determine if the source is reliable, trustworthy and suitable for inclusion in your assignments.
Watch the video below to learn more about evaluating online information.
The first step of your evaluation should be an assessment of the individual or organisation responsible for the information.
If an author is identified, can you establish:
Essentially, you need to establish whether they are suitably qualified to be writing on the topic?
If there is not enough information on the webpage for you to answer the questions above, you may have to look elsewhere. Try a Google search for your author's name and check for things like a LinkedIn or ResearchGate profile, or related publications.
If a specific author is not identified, your investigation will focus on the organisation which hosts the website. Ask yourself:
To find out more about an organisation, see if the webpage has an About us section. Look for any signs of competing interests. If a tobacco company is telling you that cigarettes are good for your health, or a mining company states that coal is good for the environment, you may want to look elsewhere to see if you can validate their claims.
Whenever you access information online, you should establish it's purpose. Ask yourself why the content was created.
Is its goal:
All information is created with a purpose in mind and that purpose can have an impact on its reliability. If the content seems to only provide one side of the story, chances are it may not be particularly trustworthy.
Using emotive or incendiary language could be a sign that the author is attempting to manipulate you into responding to the information in a particular way, especially if facts or evidence is not presented in support.
For some research topics, the timeliness of the information presented will be important.
You will need to establish:
Not all research topics require recent information and for some disciplines older sources may be appropriate. Use your judgment as to whether your source meets the needs of your research.
You will need to establish that the information you have found meets the needs of your assignment. Look at the instructions you have been given.