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Evaluating what you find

When considering the value of information you find, consider the following criteria: Authority, Currency, Purpose & Objectivity and Reliability


Who created it? What are their credentials or qualifications? Do they have authority to write on the topic or are they expressing an individual opinion?


This relates to when the work was created. This may come in different forms for different information types. For example, for books consider whether you are using the most recent edition. Always check the last updated date on websites, and remember that the copyright or footer dates on a webpage may refer to the content on the whole site, and do not necessarily reflect when the specific information on a page was last updated. Also consider whether currency is important to your information need. For example, historical information doesn't change, and so when it was created is not so important. On the other hand, technological or medical information is constantly changing, and therefore it is more important to use up-to-date information.

Purpose & Objectivity

Think about the purpose of your information. Why was it created? Common reasons for creating information can include commercial, or to sell something, to inform, satire, to educate, or provide an opinion. Information created to try and sell a product or advocate a particular point of view can be presented out of context, or omit relevant information if it conflicts with the main purpose. This can also occur with opinion pieces, which are usually skewed to an author's specific viewpoint and contain bias. Scholarly information should be unbiased and present all sides to an argument. It is also important to consider whether there is an attempt to appeal to your emotions through use of emotive language or images - academic or scholarly sources should always use neutral language and provide specific examples to back up an argument .


Finally, consider whether you can trust the information provided. Is it possible to verify the facts through a list of references or external links? If it is a scientific paper, ask yourself if the research can be replicated through sufficient description of methodology. Also consider whether the journal is peer reviewed, as this will indicate the research has been through a rigorous process prior to publication. Considering these criteria whenever you find new information for your assignments, or even outside of university, will ensure you are using authoritative, current, objective and reliable information. 

Always check the URL of a website to determine what type of site the information is coming from: : an educational institution : a UK academic site : a government body

.org : an organisation

.com or .co. : a commercial site

.net : a network