This video discusses evaluation criteria to help identify reliable sources of information.
In this video, we will discuss the ABCD’s of Evaluating Sources.
This set of criteria can help you decide whether or not to use a source of information.
In this example, we will evaluate a website about how to survive a zombie apocalypse. This same technique can be used to evaluate journal articles, books, and any other source of information on any topic.
Once you find a resource that you would like to use, think about the author of the source. Who is the author? Is he or she an expert in the field?
Here, we see a webpage that was published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a reputable organization. Taking a closer look at the author, Ali S. Kahn, we see that he is an Assistant Surgeon General with an MD. We could most likely categorize him as an expert in medicine, although it’s hard to tell if he’s also an expert in zombies.
Next, let’s check to see if there is any bias in the source. Ask yourself, does the source cover all sides of an issue in a neutral manner? Or does it seem like the author is trying to sell you something or convince you of something?
It looks like this source seems to mostly discuss unbiased facts and instructions on how to survive a disaster rather than trying to sell us something, like zombie defense products.
Next, checking the content of the source is also important. Is the material relevant to your topic? Is the information supported by evidence and was it evaluated or peer reviewed before publication? Are there any spelling or grammatical mistakes?
This article seems to be well written, but it doesn’t have a reference list or citations referring to supporting evidence. Additionally, because this is a website blog, this information did not necessarily undergo a rigorous evaluation process before it was published.
Finally, check the date of your source. Is the information still current or has the information in your source become outdated? For websites, check for broken links as an indicator if the page has not been maintained over time.
This blog was posted in May of 2011, which is fairly recent, but you would also want to check newer sources to see if there have been any recent developments in zombies since this page was written.
Even though we can use the ABCDs to help us evaluate articles, evaluation isn’t always a clear cut checklist. It’s up to you to look at each area and decide based on all of them whether or not you think the source is reliable.
For example, while this webpage provided sensible survival tips, its lack of citations to supporting evidence probably means you shouldn’t use it as an official source for a paper.
Remember, if you have any questions you can always ask a librarian for assistance.