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Evaluating Information

Users of information must evaluate it before using it.  Here are guidelines for evaluating traditional print materials and online resources.

Traditional Print Resources:

Authority

bulletWriter qualifications
bulletPublisher's reputation

Accuracy

bulletReliable
bulletFree from error
bulletComparison to other sources
bulletChecked by editors

Objectivity

bulletPoint of view
bulletMinimum bias
bulletHow much is an attempt to persuade

Coverage

bulletScope
bulletDepth

Currency

bulletInformation up to date
bulletPublication date labeled

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Web Resources

Web resources must not only meet all of the traditional information criterion, but also must meet criterion for quality online information.  Ross Todd describes types of information found on the web:

bulletInformation factual, clearly sources, reliable, quality
bulletMisinformation judged to be false, out of date, incomplete in a misleading way
bulletMalinformation potentially dangerous or damaging, inappropriate, makes people uncomfortable with in openly accessible circulation
bulletMessed Up Information poorly organized and presented, sloppy design, problematic navigation
bulletUseless Information appears to serve little informing purpose (What is classed as useless may be different to different people.)

The traditional criteria can be adapted to web resources (see checklists from Widener University) to deal with these types of information. In selecting sites for curriculum units, it is most important to consider content, but all these are important.

Authority

bulletHard to determine author or qualifications
bulletNo publisher
bulletURL may provide clues on source (e.g., institution, business, organization, government)

Accuracy

bulletLittle editorial control of web content
bulletAnyone can publish on the web
bulletVerify by comparison to other sources

Objectivity

bulletObjective of site may not be clear
bulletMay intend to make a point or advertise
bulletExamples for objectivity:

Coverage

bulletHard to determine
bulletMay view single page out of context
bulletInstability of sites makes this more difficult
bulletDoes site cover the breadth and depth it claims?
bulletAny content gaps?
bulletAre sources cited?

Currency

bulletMay or may not include date
bulletNot clear on meaning: first written, placed on web, last revised??
bulletExamples for currency and coverage:

Additional Factors 

Content

bulletPurpose of page
bulletIntended audience -- reading level, interest level, language
bulletType of activities / information
bulletEngaging activities as appropriate
bulletComparison to other resources available on the subject
bulletInclusion of relevant links

Marketing Orientation

bulletDetermine if information and advertising are from same organization

Mix of Entertainment, Information, and Advertising

Hypertext Links

bulletQuality of linked pages may vary
bulletEvaluate each page independently (watch URL for site change)

Page Design

bulletMotivating
bulletLoading time
bulletPurpose of graphics
bulletInformation organization
bulletNavigation

Instability of Sites

bulletPages move or disappear
bulletLook for pages from major organizations
bulletDocument fully

Software Requirements May Limit Access

bulletJava, Javascript, ActiveX, RealPlayer,
bulletQuickTime
bulletBrowser may vary appearance

Search Engines May Retrieve Pages Out of Context

bulletTry to return to home page for source

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When Evaluating Websites

bulletDetermine if web is logical site for researching this topic; indicate most appropriate resources -- both print and electronic
bulletIdentify type of page to help determine focus (information / reference, news, advocacy, marketing, personal)
bulletUse appropriate evaluation criteria

Steps to Evaluate Websites

bullet Be aware from the start of factors that will influence your evaluation at all phases:
bulletPrior knowledge 
bullet Emotion
bulletFormat
bulletMetacognition
bulletConflict of relevance and quality
bulletSeek key elements in each site such as keywords, author. Look for high relevance to topic.
bulletConsider length as cue to specificity.
bulletConsider format and context (e.g., journal, newspaper, commercial website, etc.).
bulletBe alert for problem markers.
bulletConsider relevance to your information need.
bulletEstablish authority of the page.
bulletFollow up on problem markers.
bulletCompare what is found to prior knowledge.
bulletDiscover the organization of the work.
bulletUse tables and captions for additional information.
bulletAbandon a resource if it is not up to standards.
bulletAnnotate by highlighting and marking notes in margins.
bulletReconsider of information in light of new discoveries or  rereading .
bulletWhere do sources disagree? Points of agreement are more trustworthy.
bulletAddress conflicts How do they know? What is the value of their evidence?
bulletExamine perspectives in conflicts of information

Mary Ann Fitzgerald
Critical Thinking 101

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Sample Checklists and Evaluation Criteria  

bulletEvaluation form for Collection Development Class compiled from other checklists listed below 
bulletALA's 700+ Great Sites Evaluation Criteria  
bulletIDEAS Quality Rubric  
bulletEd's Oasis Evaluation Center  
bulletScout Report Selection Criteria  
bulletThe ABCs of Web Evaluation  
bulletEvaluation Criteria (a checklist on accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, and coverage with links to examples)
bulletArmadillo's Feedback Form for Educational Sites  
bulletCyberGuides (Karen McLachlan)
bulletHoax? Scholarly Research? Personal Opinion? You Decide?  
bulletThinking Critically about World Wide Web Resources (UCLA) 
bulletEvaluating Internet Information (John's Hopkins University)
bulletEvaluating Online Educational Materials for Use in Instruction (R.M. Branch, D. Kim, L. Koenecke) 
bulletUSC's Criteria for Evaluating Web Resources  
bulletBerkeley's Evaluating Web Pages (tutorial) 
bulletThe Good, the Bad, and the Ugly  

For Kids

bulletQUICK  
bulletWebsite Investigator  - a site for elementary children
bulletKathy Schrock's Guide for Educators: Critical Evaluation Surveys

Bogus Web Pages (Demonstrate Evaluation of Web Resources)

bulletAIDS Facts
bulletFeline Reactions to Bearded Men
bulletBan Dihydrogen Monoxide
bulletRealAroma
bulletQuestionable Web Sites

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Information Power
Information Literacy
Research Process
KWL
Ciardello
Evaluating Information
Lesson Design
Assessment
Collaboration
Staff Development

 

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