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Child Development: Evaluating Information

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

North Carolina State University Libraries (3:14).

Evaluating Strategies

The process of evaluating a source includes examining the source itself and examining other sources by:

  • Checking for previous work. Has someone already fact-checked this source?
  • Finding the original source. Who originally published the information and why?
  • Reading laterally. What do other people say about this publication and author?
  • Circling back. How can you revise your original search to yield better results?
  • Checking your own emotions. Is your own bias affecting your evaluation?1

The questions below will help you think critically during the source evaluation process:

Purpose: How and why the source was created.

  • Why does this information exist?
    Why is it in this form (book, article, website, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience? 
  • Is the purpose clear?

Relevance: The value of the source for your needs.

  • How useful is this source in answering your question, supporting your argument, or adding to your knowledge?
  • Is the type and content of the source appropriate for your assignment?

Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information.

  • How thorough and balanced is this source?
  • Does it present fact or opinion?
  • How well do its creators acknowledge their point of view, represent other points of view fully, and critique them professionally?

Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information.

  • How well do the creators of this source support their information with factual evidence, identify and cite their sources, and accurately represent information from other sources? 
  • Can you find the original source(s) of the information or verify facts in other sources? 
  • What do experts say about the topic?

Expertise: The authority of the authors and the source. 

  • Who created this source and what education and/or professional or personal experience makes them authorities on the topic?
  • How was the source reviewed before publication?
  • Do other experts cite this source or otherwise acknowledge the authority of its creators?

Newness: The age of the information.

  • Does your topic require current information? 
  • How up-to-date is this source and the information within it? 

P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation by librarian Ellen Carey (2018), Santa Barbara City College, is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

1Based on Caulfield, Mike. "Four Moves and a Habit." Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, 2017.

If you’re visiting an online health site for the first time or downloading a new app, ask these five questions:

  • Who runs or created the site or app? Can you trust them?
  • What is the site or app promising or offering? Do its claims seem too good to be true?
  • When was its information written or reviewed? Is it up-to-date?
  • Where does the information come from? Is it based on scientific research? How strong is the evidence?
  • Why does the site or app exist? Is it selling something?

Find even more from the National Institute of Health's "Finding and Evaluating Online Resources" guide.

Mike Caulfield's Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers suggests the following strategies.

Make use of fact-checking sites. A few are listed below; find more in Caulfield's free online book.

Click on the links embedded in news articles to check if the original sources are being accurately represented.

Find out what other sites say about the site. Below are two sources that can help you determine biases and accuracy in reporting.