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Rhetoric and Composition Research Guide

This is a reference list of resources so that you can conduct research within the field of writing and rhetoric.

Evaluating Information ToC

Evaluating Information

  > What is Authority?

  > Types of Bias

  > Evaluating Resources

  > Choosing the Best Web Source

  > Understanding Misinformation

  > Objectivity in Reporting

  > Evaluating Digital Sources Using Lateral Reading



Instruct: Evaluating Information & Bias

Evaluate Your Sources: Quick Questions to Ask

Evaluate your sources: Questions to ask


  1. Relevance & Appropriate
    • Does this pertain to your topic?
    • Is this important to your topic?
    • Will this support your thesis?
  2. Authority & Credibility
    • Who is writing this?
    • Are they qualified to write on this subject?
  3. Accuracy & Verifiability
    • Are there references to check validity?
    • Is the data available on claims made?
  4. Bias & Objectivity
    • Is this author expressing their opinion as fact?
    • Are they trying to sway your viewpoint?
  5. Currency & Timeliness
    • When was this written?
    • Is the date of the information relational to the source?
  6. Scope & Depth
    • Does it have breadth? Broad in scope
    • Does it have depth? Intense in scope
  7. Intended Audience & Purpose
    • Who is this written for?
    • What are they accomplishing by writing this?

The information available on websites is not always accurate or reliable because anyone can publish almost anything they wish online. In order to use websites for academic and research purposes, they must be approached critically. Below are questions grouped by category that will help when critiquing the credibility of an online resource.


  • Is the name of the author/creator on the page?
  • Are his/her credentials listed (occupation, years of experience, position or education)?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the given topic? Why?
  • Is there contact information, such as an email address, somewhere on the page?


Knowing the motive behind the page's creation can help you judge its content.

  • Who is the intended audience?
    • Scholarly audience or experts?
    • General public or novices?
  • If not stated, what do you think is the purpose of the site? Is the purpose to:
    • Inform or Teach?
    • Explain or Enlighten?
    • Persuade?
    • Sell a Product? 


  • Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the author's point-of-view objective and impartial?
  • Is the language free of emotion-rousing words and bias?
  • Is the author affiliated with an organization?
    • Does the author's affiliation with an institution or organization appear to bias the information?
    • Does the content of the page have the official approval of the institution, organization, or company? 


  • Are the sources for factual information clearly listed so that the information can be verified?
  • Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  • Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, or typographical errors?

Reliability and Credibility

  • Why should anyone believe information from this site?
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it unsupported by evidence?
  • Are quotes and other strong assertions backed by sources that you could check through other means?
  • What institution (company, government, university, etc.) supports this information?
  • If it is an institution, have you heard of it before? Can you find more information about it?
  • Is there a non-Web equivalent of this material that would provide a way of verifying its legitimacy?


  • If timeliness of the information is important, is it kept up-to-date?
  • Is there an indication of when the site was last updated?


  • Are links related to the topic and useful to the purpose of the site?
  • Are links still current, or have they become dead ends?
  • What kinds of sources are linked?
  • Are the links evaluated or annotated in any way?