What is evaluation?
There’s a LOT of information out there, not all of which is trustworthy. Learning how to evaluate effectively is a skill you need both in the academic setting and in life. This is an important skill that you will use all the time.
In an academic setting, being able to critically evaluate information is necessary in order to conduct quality research. Information occurs in many different formats and types, and each item you find must be evaluated to determine it's quality, relevance, and perspective in order to best support your research. Some general criteria to consider when evaluating information includes:
accuracy or credibility
quality of the publication
scope and coverage
objectivity or bias
sources or documentation
Some of the information used to determine the quality of a source may be available in the source itself; however, you may be required to consult outside sources. The format of the source (book, journal, Web site) will also influence what you need to look for.
For detailed information on how to evaluate sources, click on the "How do I evaluate information?" tab.
Why should I evaluate what I find?
It is essential to establish the validity, reliability, credibility, authorship, and integrity of all information you find, both in print, and especially, on the Web. Information can easily be copied with omissions and errors, either intentionally or unintentionally. Unlike most print resources, there are no editors on the Web to proofread and edit a piece of information until it meets the standards of a publishing house's reputation. The majority of Web pages found in general search engines, such as Google or Yahoo, are either self-published or published by corporations or organizations that want to sell you something or believe a particular point of view. The Web is free, and if you want to use it for scholarly research, you need to adopt a perspective of skepticism, and examine everything you find with a critical eye.
Critical evaluation skills are particularly important for evaluating the quality of Web sites because:
There is increased use of the Internet.
The April 12, 1999 issue of eMarketer concluded that 35 million U.S. households (34% of the total) or 98.9 million people have Internet access.
There is a large quantity of information. A 1999 article in Nature, by authors Steve Lawrence and Lee Giles, found that there are currently over 800 million publicly indexable Web pages. Of these sites
- 83% contains commercial content
- 6% contains scientific or educational content
- 1.2% contains government content
- 2.8% contains health content
- 1.9 % contains societies content
- 1.5% contains pornographic content
- Other content includes personal, community and religious content
The quality of information is varied. A study published in the June 1998 issue of Pediatrics found that 48 of 60 medical websites examined gave inaccurate or obsolete information. Among 28 of the sites aimed specifically at child health, 57% were inaccurate. One of the researchers concluded "You don’t need to be sophisticated to find a lot of information. You do need to be sophisticated to read it critically."
Some text taken from The Internet Navigator online course.