Teacher Education: Evaluate Search Results

Information and resources related to education research.

Evaluating Resources

The books, journal articles and web sites recommended for your course will already have been evaluated for their quality by your teachers

However, when you are asked to find your own information, you will have to judge its quality.

In this section you will learn how to critically evaluate the information that you use for your assignments.

Evaluating Websites

The World Wide Web has a lot to offer, but not all sources are equally valuable or reliable!

Consider the following when evaluating a website:

Criterion #1: Purpose

Consider the main purpose of the page. Web pages are not always easy to categorize and some may combine some of these categories.

Extensions(domains) on addresses can sometimes indicating reliability:

a .edu extension indicates a college or university

a .org extension indicates an organization

a .com indicates a commercial enterprise

These extensions are used in the U. S. only. Foreign sites, and some in the U.S., use a geographical extension or domain. These "extension" rules should only be applied in a general way. Some commercial sites contain high quality information but many are advertising a product or service and, therefore, are not objective sources. A person who works for the commercial enterprise may be reliable, although a person who is merely "renting" space on their web server may not be. Government sites usually have reliable information but remember that government also deals in propaganda and partisan views. Academic sites will most likely contain quality information suitable for research, but you must still check the author's background. An organization may be a legal entity that has an interest in providing reliable information. However, the information found on an organization's homepage may also be highly biased and one-sided


Criterion #2: Authority

An author's affiliation is an important clue to the reliability of the information:

Look for any biographical statement about the author.

Look for an e-mail address or site address to determine affiliation.

Questions to ask about the author:

  • Is the author even listed?
  • Is the author the original creator of the information?
  • Did the author list his/her occupation, educational background, expertise?
  • Do you think this person is qualified to present this information?
  • Did the author cite his/her sources?
  • Can you verify the author's credentials from another source?
  • Has the author also published in professional or scholarly journals?

Criterion #3: Accuracy

Don't take the information presented at face value. Web sites are rarely refereed or reviewed, as are scholarly journals and books:

Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source? (If not, the page may still be useful to you as an example of the ideas of the organization, but it is not useful as a source of factual information).

Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)

Criterion #4: Objectivity

Are the sponsor's biases clearly stated?

If there is any advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?

Criterion #5: Currency

Are there any indications that the material is kept current?

Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?

Are there dates on the page to indicate:

-When the page was written?

-When the page was first placed on the Web?

-When the page was last revised?


Don’t see any date information on the page?

-In Netscape pull down “View” from the menu bar and select “Page information”

-In Internet Explorer pull down “File” from the menu bar and select “Properties”

-In Mozilla Firefox pull down “Tools” from the menu bar and select “Page Info”

Criterion #6: Coverage

Is it clear what topics the page intends to address?

Does the page succeed in addressing these topics, or has something significant been left out?

Is the point of view of the sponsor/author presented in a clear manner with its arguments well supported?

Are the links on the page relevant to the subject?

Does the content cover a specific time period or aspect of the topic, or strives to be comprehensive?

Criterion #7: Style and Functionality

Is the site laid out clearly and logically with well organized subsections?

Is the writing style appropriate for the intended audience?

Is the site easy to navigate?

Is a search function offered?

Is the homepage easy to navigate?

Is the homepage logically organized?

Is the writing clear?

Are there numerous spelling or grammatical errors?

Are there errors in the use of HTML tags?

Do the links work?

Primary / Secondary Sources

You also must be able to distinguish between what is a primary and secondary source of information, especially important when dealing with historical evidence.

Primary Source - this is an original source made at the time e.g. a contemporary account or news report; official records; photographs; a film of an event etc. A primary source has credibility because it is a record of what was seen, heard or experienced.

Secondary Source - this has been processed or edited in some way e.g. a news reporter commenting on selected highlights of witness evidence; audio or visual material which uses selected extracts or may have been digitally altered.

"Secondary source evidence has less credibility because any type of processing will have altered it in some way such as to remove part of it and thus to alter its meaning, emphasis or context." Critical Thinking Course; Chapter 8, (online) accessed 2005

Evaluating Journals

Evaluating Journals

CHARACTERISTICS

SCHOLARLY/PEER REVIEWED JOURNALS

GENERAL MAGAZINES

How to tell the difference between these two types of periodicals:

Content

Reports on original research; in-depth analysis of topics; statistical information; academic level book reviews; refereed or peer-reviewed

Current events and news; hot topics; brief, factual information; interviews

Length


Longer articles providing in-depth analysis of topics


Shorter articles providing broader overviews of topics

Authorship


Author usually an expert or specialist in the field; name and credentials always provided - researchers, academics, professors, scholars

Author usually a staff writer or a journalist; name and credentials often not provided

Language


Academic level writing & vocabulary; specialized language of the discipline; can be highly technical

Non-technical vocabulary; often simple language

Format/Structure


Articles usually more structured; may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography

Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure

Editors


Editors/reviewers are experts in the same field as author(s); many participate in peer-review process prior to publication; rigorous publication standards; articles checked for content, format and style

Editors not academic experts in subject field of article; article topics often assigned or contracted; articles usually only edited for style and format

Publishers


Professional organizations; Universities, research institutes and scholarly presses

Commercial/trade publishers; corporate ownership

Special Features


Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs


Illustrations with glossy or color photographs, usually for advertising purposes

Credits


A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always provided to document research thoroughly


A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided; names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text; sources, when used, are rarely cited in full

What is a Scholarly or Peer Review Article

North Carolina State University Libraries explains the peer review process and its significance in research.

This site is maintained by the librarians of George A. Spiva Library.
If you have a question or comment about the Library's LibGuides, please contact the site administrator.