Evaluating information for research is just a specialized, advanced form of the same critical thinking skills you already use.
Why do we need to critically evaluate information sources?
- No source of information is guaranteed to be trustworthy. You always need to use your own educated judgment, even with scholarly articles from library databases.
- Some sources of information are more trustworthy than others, but it can be hard to tell from appearances.
- Evaluating information using critical thinking will save time and effort by filtering out materials you should not use.
- Your critical thinking will show up in your writing and you will get better grades.
Your professors may tell you to find credible information sources. This is a subjective term with many definitions, but the general consensus is that credibility is a combination of reliability, authority, validity and accuracy.
- Reliability means that the entities that sponsored, supported, or published the information source have a reputation for quality, and integrity.
- The entity can be a journal, book publisher, movie studio, any kind of organization that puts information out on a web site, etc.
- Authority means that the creator of the information source is an expert in the field.
- The creator can be an author, multiple authors, or an organization, government agency, company, etc.
- Validity means that the research in the information source was conducted in ways that are commonly accepted for that field of study.
- For example, anecdotes are not valid in the sciences. Raw numbers are not valid in the humanities.
- There are some inclusions that are not valid in any scholarly field of study: logical fallacies, blatant emotional manipulation, deceit, etc.
- Accuracy means that you have ways of determining the correctness of the information in the information source.
- You can verify the information in one information source by checking it against other information sources.
- You can verify the information in an information source against real word tests that you perform yourself.
Source: SUNY Empire State College Librarians, https://subjectguides.esc.edu/researchskillstutorial
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