Evaluating a source can begin even before you have the source in hand. You can initially appraise a source by first examining the bibliographic citation. A bibliographic citation is a written description of a book, journal article, essay, or some other published material. Bibliographic citations characteristically have three main components: author, title, and publication information (i.e. date, place, vol. & issue). These components can help you determine the usefulness of this source for a paper. Abstracts, if included as part of an index, can also provide useful content description when deciding the usefulness of a source. There are many ways to evaluate a source.
From JHU Guide:
The World Wide Web offers information and data from all over the world. Because so much information is available, and because that information can appear to be fairly “anonymous”, it is necessary to develop skills to evaluate what you find. When you use a research or academic library, the books, journals and other resources have already been evaluated by scholars, publishers and librarians. Every resource you find has been evaluated in one way or another before you ever see it. When you are using the World Wide Web, none of this applies. There are no filters. Because anyone can write a Web page, documents of the widest range of quality, written by authors of the widest range of authority, are available on an even playing field. Excellent resources reside along side the most dubious. The Internet epitomizes the concept of Caveat lector: Let the reader beware.
This guide discusses the criteria by which scholars in most fields evaluate print information, and shows how the same criteria can be used to assess information found on the Internet. Use the tabs on this guide to further explore and consider how to effectively evaluate online information.
Original source (1993) for this Guide was the Cornell Library: http://web.archive.org/web/20120101202910/http://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/ref/research/skill26.htm
The Cornell Library current version: http://guides.library.cornell.edu/criticallyanalyzing
Also the Guide from Berkeley for questions to ask: http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html
Good table on web page from VCU - uses original criteria from Susan Beck: http://www.lib.vt.edu/instruct/evaluate/
Another excellent table with criteria from U. of Oregon: http://library.uoregon.edu/guides/findarticles/credibility.html
More questions to ask from UCLA (Esther Grassian's original): http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/library/modules/Judge/CLThinkDisc.pdf
And Esther's second one on Web2.0 sources (i.e. social media): http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/library/modules/Judge/CLThinkWeb20.pdf
From Widener - What the public Web won't find: http://www.widener.edu/about/campus_resources/wolfgram_library/evaluate/wontfind.aspx
Apply the CRAAP test: http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf
Kathy Shrock's listing of good resources for evaluation: http://www.schrockguide.net/critical-evaluation.html
Clues to Credibility: Trustworth organization and Author expertise BY purpose or mission statement, clear credentials listed, and current contact information
Use the following criteria:
Coverage or scope refers to the extent to which a source explores a topic. Consider time periods, geography or jurisdiction and coverage of related or narrower topics. Tip: When seeking information about the scope of coverage of a database, look for dates and information about excluded materials. Does the database cover the period of time of interest to you? Does it exclude select articles because of copyright licensing issues?
Authority refers to the expertise or recognized official status of a source. Consider the reputation of the author and publisher. When working with legal or government information, consider whether the source is the official provider of the information. Tip: Authors recognized as experts amongst their peers are usually cited and reviewed in the literature. If a source claims official status (e.g., the House of Representatives is the official publisher of the U.S. Code), you should be able to verify the claim.
Objectivity is the bias or opinion expressed when a writer interprets or analyzes facts. Consider the use of persuasive language, the source's presentation of other viewpoints, it's reason for providing the information and advertising. Tip: All writing, except for the dissemination of pure facts, contains a certain amount of bias. Does the source provide a balanced point of view? Does the author want to influence change? Is the advertising influencing the content?
Accuracy describes information that is factually irrefutable and complete. Consider the editing and publishing policy of the source. Is it peer-reviewed? Does it fact-check before publishing? Tip: You should be able to verify factually correct information. Are there two or more reliable sources that provide the same information?
Currency refers to information that is current at the time of publication. Consider publication, creation and revision dates. Beware of Web site scripting that automatically reflects the current day's date on a page. Tip: The information provided might have been current at the time it was published. Can you establish the publication date? Does the revision date cover changes in content or aesthetic revisions only?
Consider the following questions when determining whether or not a website is appropriate for use in your research and course work.
1. Scope and Subject Matter
Is the information unique, or is it available in other forms?
Is appropriate attribution given where required?
3. Currency and Completeness
Are all graphics included in the electronic format?
Is an indication of size provided in kilobytes where a link leads to large volumes of data (text, images, video, or voice)?
5. Ease of Use