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FYS 100: Intro to Library Research & Resources (Koepke Spring 2024): Evaluating Information Sources

Using Google to Find Information

  • Why not just Google your topic? 

  • Sheer number of results

  • Google relies on algorithms 

  • Trending, popular news items/posts 

  • No form of peer review: anybody can post anything, whether it’s true or not 

  • Can’t find information behind paywalls 

  • It’s not bad to use Google, but if you do, you have to know how to evaluate your information critically: how do you do that?

Helpful information

How to Evaluate Websites Quickly

Knowing why it's vital to evaluate free sources on the web is just as important. 

  • The sheer amount of information available is exponential
  • The variety of purposes that individuals, organizations, associations, businesses, governments, (etc) create and upload content (to sell, to convince, to lie, to educate, etc)
  • The credibility of the content creators (what is their background, training, expertise, experience, etc)
  • The accuracy of the information (false, proven otherwise, wrong data, out-of-date, etc)

Knowing how to evaluate free sources on the web is vital and expected at the college level. This can be done quickly and becomes a life-long good habit based on your common sense.

  • Check the url to see what kind of website it is (.org, .com, .edu, .gov, etc)
  • Find the "about" link (either at the top or at the bottom) to learn more about who is behind the site and the level of transparency
  • Find the date that the site was last updated or a date that gives some idea of whether the site is maintained
  • Is there advertising? Advertising on a site isn't "bad" but tells you more about the purpose of the site
  • A quick scan can tell you something about the validity, accuracy, and purpose of the site