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Global Media & Society

Professor Neil Reisner

Evaluate your sources: Questions to ask


Relevance & Appropriateness

  1. Does this pertain to your topic?
  2. Is this important to your topic?
  3. Will this support your thesis?

Authority & Credibility

  1. Who is writing this?
  2. Are they qualified to write on this subject?

Accuracy & Verifiability

  1. Are there references to check validity?
  2. Is the data available on claims made?

Bias & Objectivity

  1. Is this author expressing their opinion as fact?
  2. Are they trying to sway your viewpoint?

Currency & Timeliness

  1. When was this written?
  2. Is the date of the information relational to the source?

Scope & Depth

  1. Does it have breadth? Broad in scope
  2. Does it have depth? Intense in scope

Intended Audience & Purpose

  1. Who is this written for?
  2. What are they accomplishing by writing this?

Traditional print sources

Reference: A good place to start your research. Use encyclopedias and other reference materials to find the history of your topic, key figures, timelines, scholarship conversation, and the vocabulary (key words) to use when searching for sources.

Books and Textbooks: Books present a multitude of topics. Because of the time it takes to publish a book, books usually contain more dated information than will be found in journals and newspapers.

News Sources and Newspapers: Predominately covering the latest events and trends, newspapers contain very up-to-date information. Newspapers report both information that is factual in nature and also share opinions. Generally, however, they will not take a “big picture” approach or contain information about larger trends.

Academic and Trade Journals: Academic and trade journals are where to find the most up-to-date information and research in industry, business, and academia. Journal articles come in several forms, including literature reviews that overview current and past research, articles on theories and history, or articles on specific processes or research.

Government Reports and Legal Documents: The government releases information intended for its own use or for public use. These types of documents can be an excellent source of information. An example of a government report is the U.S. Census data. Most government reports and legal documents can now be accessed online.

Press Releases and Advertising: Companies and special interest groups produce texts to help persuade readers to act in some way or inform the public about some new development

Media: Printed material is certainly not the only option for finding research. Also consider media sources such as radio and television broadcasts, interactive talks, and public meetings.

Internet-only sources

Web sites: Most of the information on the Internet is distributed via Web sites. Web sites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources.

Weblogs / Blogs: A rather recent development in Web technology, weblogs or blogs are a type of interactive journal where writers post and readers respond. They vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources. For example, many prestigious journalists and public figures may have blogs, which may be more credible of a blog than most.

Message boards, Discussion lists, and Chat rooms: Discussion lists, chat rooms, and message boards exist for all kinds of disciplines both in and outside of the university. However, plenty of boards exist that are rather unhelpful and poorly researched.

Web Media: The Internet has a multitude of multimedia resources including online broadcasts and news, images, audio files, and interactive Web sites.

from Purdue OWL c. 2013

reliable information sources

REMEMBER: If you are using the internet for research, it is especially important to evaluate the accuracy and authority of the information you find there. Search engines, like Google, find web sites of all levels of quality. Keep these things in mind when deciding if a web page is reliable and appropriate for your research:

  • authority/credibility
  • accuracy/verifiability
  • bias/objectivity
  • currency/timeliness
  • scope/depth
  • intended audience/purpose

Always check with your instructor to find out if you can use free (non-Library) web sites for your assignments. And if looking for journal articles, library databases are the most efficient tool for searching.