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Evaluating Information: Why Evaluate?

This guide will help you assess the quality, accuracy and reliability of the information you locate to support your assignments and research.

Why is it Important to Evaluate

Your assignment grade depends on the quality of information that you use:

  • Always check the "last updated" date on a website.
  • Always check where the information is coming from.
  • Be critical – is the information found on the website actually answering your research/assignment?
  • Always cite your sources!

Evaluation ensures that you can use the information you find. It also ensures that:

  • You can back up your conclusions in projects and exams.
  • The source is fit for purpose.
  • The information is reliable.
  • You develop your critical thinking skills.

Sounds like more work…?

No it isn’t! Evaluation of information can become second nature to you if you bear the following five key points in mind when looking at information in a web page.

5 Key Points

Is it clear to you at a glance:

  • Who wrote the page i.e. where is the information coming from? 
  • What is the affiliation of the author(s), e.g., to an organisation, company or educational institution?
  • If sponsorship is clearly evident on the page?

TIP: Look for an “about” or “who we are” button to find out more about the author(s).

Is it clear to you at a glance:

  • That the information is correct?
  • That you can easily verify the information on the website using another source?
  • That the author is qualified to write about this topic?
  • That references to other sources backing up the author’s claims are clearly given?

TIP: Using Google’s advanced search function to discover which websites link to this website can often be a useful indicator of the accuracy of the information found there.

Is the purpose of the website to:

  • Inform you?
  • Advocate a particular argument in favour of an issue?
  • Sell or promote something?
  • Provide you with news, or is it just someone’s personal website?

TIP: The letters at the end of a web address, or URL, will give you a clue as to the kind of site it is, e.g. .com = commercial, .edu or .ac.uk = educational.

Is it clear to you at a glance:

  • That the level of detail in the information is suitable for your purpose?
  • That the information on the site is well presented?
  • That the information on the site increases your understanding and is not just a list of links?

TIP: Compare to other sites on the same topic to assess the quality of the coverage.

Is it clear to you at a glance:

  • When the website was last updated – is there a “last created” or “last updated” date clearly visible?
  • That the links provided by the author are live?
  • That there are no dead links on the page, a sign that the site is checked regularly?

TIP: Read the website for references to recent dates which shows that the content is up to date.

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