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Last Updated: Jun 22, 2017 URL: Print Guide Email Alerts

Evaluating Information Print Page

Criteria for Evaluation Web Sites


  • Who wrote or created this source? (person, organization or institution)
  • What are the author's credentials?
  • With what organization or institution is the author affiliated?


  • Is this an original piece of work or research?
  • Is it fact or opinion?
  • Is there a bias, or a particular point-of-view being presented?
  • Does the source have any special features that might be relevant to your topic?
  • How well is the subject covered? Does it meet your information needs?
  • How much prior knowledge is required to use this source?


  • Is the information accurate?
  • Is it properly annotated, cited or documented?
  • How does the information compare to other sources within the field?


  • When was the source published or created?
  • Has it been revised or updated?
  • How current are the citations to other sources or links to other Web sites?

Source Information:

  • Has the source been reviewed or evaluated by a specific review process, by peers, or by experts in the field?
  • Is there an index or other method to locate specific information within the source?

    Journal vs. Magazine -- What's the Difference?

    Different types of publications have different purposes and different audiences. Journals and magazines can usually be divided into three broad categories: scholarly journals, popular magazines, and trade publications.

    Scholarly Journals

    • Authors are authorities in their fields.
    • Authors cite their sources in endnotes, footnotes, or bibliographies.
    • Individual issues have little or no advertising.
    • Articles must go through a peer-review process.
    • Articles are usually reports on scholarly research.
    • Illustrations usually take the form of charts and graphs.
    • Articles use the terminology, or jargon, of the discipline.

    Popular Magazines

    • Authors are magazine staff members or free-lance writers.
    • Authors often mention sources, but rarely formally cite them in bibliographies.
    • Individual issues contain numerous advertisements.
    • There is no peer-review process.
    • Articles are meant to inform and entertain.
    • Illustrations are numerous and colorful.
    • Language is geared to the general adult audience -- no knowledge of specialized vocabulary is needed.

    Trade Publications

    • Authors are specialists in a certain field or industry.
    • Authors often mention sources, but rarely formally cite them in bibliographies.
    • Intended audience includes people in the industry or people seeking employment in the industry.
    • There is no peer review process.
    • Articles give practical information to people in an industry.
    • Some illustrations are included, usually charts, graphs, etc.
    • Authors use the terminology, or jargon, of the industry.

    Examples of the three major categories of periodicals:

    Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines Trade Publications
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vogue Nation's Restaurant News

    Journal of Educational Research

    Scientific American

    Publisher Weekly

    Political Quarterly

    National Geographic

    Advertising Age

    The American Psychologist

    Psychology Today

    Information Today

    Progress in Human Geography

    U. S. News and World Report

    Aviation Week and
    Space Technology

    adapted from “Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines, and Trade Publications”, by Carol A. Singer, Reference Librarian, Bowling Green State University.


      What are Primary Sources?

      Primary sources are records of events as they are first described, without any interpretation or commentary.  Examples are diaries, court records, letters, and interviews. They are also sets of data, such as census statistics, which have been tabulated, but not interpreted.

      Secondary Sources

      Secondary sources, on the other hand, offer an analysis or a restatement of primary sources. They often attempt to describe or explain primary sources. Some secondary sources not only analyze primary sources, but also use them to argue a contention or to persuade the reader to hold a certain opinion.

      Examples of secondary sources include: dictionaries, encyclopedias, textbooks, and books and articles that interpret or review research works.

      Examples of primary and secondary sources:

      Primary Source

      Secondary Source


      Original artwork

      Article critiquing the piece of art


      Slave diary

      Book about the Underground Railroad



      Treatise on a particular genre of poetry

      Political Science


      Essay on Native American land rights


      Videotape of a performance

      Biography of a playwright

      adapted from “Primary Vs. Secondary Sources”, by Carol A. Singer, Reference Librarian, Bowling Green State University


        Evaluating Web Sites


        • Who (or what institution or organization) created, and/or is responsible for this source?
        • Is this an original piece of work or research?
        • Is it fact or opinion?
        • What are the author's credentials. Is he or she a student, a professor, an expert in the field, or just an enthusiast or hobbyist?
        • With what organization or institution is he or she affiliated?

        Accuracy, Content, and Currency

        • Is the information accurate?
        • Is it properly annotated, cited, or documented?
        • How does the information compare to information available in other sources within the field?
        • How well is the subject covered? Does it meet your (or your students) information needs?
        • When was the page or site created? Has it been revised? When was it last updated?
        • If the site contains links to other Internet/WWW resources, are these links current and in working order?

        Document or Site Information

        • Who is the intended audience?
        • What is the purpose of the site or the information it contains?
        • Is it a published or unpublished paper, a presentation, or an informational site?
        • Has the site been reviewed or evaluated by any of the following: a specific review process and/or group, by peers, by other authorities or experts in the field?
        • What is the perspective of the information being presented? Is there a bias, or a particular point of view being presented?

        Ease of Use

        • Take into consideration the overall design, layout and presentation of information.
        • Is help readily available (or needed?).
        • Is there an index or table of contents available?

        Stability of Resource

        • Keep in mind that the nature of the Internet is dynamic. Web pages and web sites are updated, revised, renovated, moved, and deleted daily. Always expect change!
        • Web pages and sites created and maintained by colleges, universities (departments or individuals within these types of institutions), governmental agencies, libraries, major corporations and businesses, and major organizations tend to be more stable than those maintained by people who have accounts on ISPs (Internet Service Providers) or students. It's not necessarily a problem with the quality of the information, but rather with the availability or stability of the information. Students may graduate or leave school and thus their web pages are no longer updated, and are eventually deleted. Many people change ISPs, or their ISP may ask them to remove the web page or web site for any number of reasons. Many people may simply decide that they are no longer interested in a certain topic, so they delete the information.
        • If the web page or web site has been moved, are there links to the new page with a reminder to change your bookmarks and links?
        • If you are giving your students a list of Internet/WWW resources to use for class, or preparing a list of links to be included in a presentation or classroom lecture, make sure all links are working before you hand out the list or begin your presentation. Always have alternate sites picked out, since you never know when a certain site might be down for maintenance or temporarily out of service.

        Where to look for information when evaluating and selecting Internet/WWW resources

        • Look at the top or bottom of the web page for institution name, author, contact person, creation date, update information, affiliations, etc.
        • Look for links to a personal, professional, departmental, or institutional web page for more information.
        • Do a web search for the author's name. Try searching AltaVista. Put quotation marks around the author's name ("John Doe") when searching.
        • Look for an "About" or "Information About this Site" link.
        • Consult various review services (e.g., Librarian's Index to the Internet Many professional journals regularly review and evaluate Internet resources.
        • Look closely at the URL to determine where the web page is located.


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