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Shapiro Library

Evaluating Sources

This guide will provide you with information that you can use to critically evaluate sources including websites, articles and reports, books and ebooks, etc.

Purpose & Objectivity 


Evaluating a source by purpose & objectivity means that you are asking: Is there bias or a slant given to the information provided?

When considering the purpose & objectivity of a source, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What point of view does the author represent? Is the source arguing for or against something? Does the source contain mostly factual information or is it opinion-based?
  • Is the source associated with an organization or institution that is known for promoting a certain point of view or opinion?
  • What appears to be the purpose of the information provided -- to inform, teach, sell, entertain, provide public services, or persuade?

Where should you look to determine the purpose & objectivity of a source?

 

Print & Database Sources

  • Read the abstract, summary, or table of contents for the source
  • Scan the full text of the source - look for facts, statistics, advertisements, etc.
  • Examine or look up the author's and publisher's affiliations
  • Examine or look up other works written or published by the author/publisher

Websites

  • Read the abstract, summary, or table of contents for the source (if available)
  • Scan the full text of the source - look for facts, statistics, advertisements, etc.
  • Examine or look up website's or author's affiliations
  • Examine or look up other works written or published by the author/website
  • Examine the domain extension (i.e. .com, .edu)

What to avoid

  • Sources that are primarily opinion-based, with few facts or statistics (unless seeking biased sources)
  • Sources that are primarily concerned with selling a product (unless seeking biased sources)
  • Sources with affiliations known for promoting a certain viewpoint (unless seeking biased sources)

Note: It's okay to use information from sources that contain strong arguments or opinions, but it's always a good idea to acknowledge the author's view.

Purpose & Objectivity Questions
Examples Questions To Ask
BeefNutrition.org
  • Who sponsors this web site?
  • Does it promote an agenda or specific viewpoint?
Melatonin.com
  • Is this site purely informational, or is it trying to sell a product (advertising)?
Monsanto - Biotechnology
  • Who sponsors this web site?
  • Does it promote an agenda or specific viewpoint?