Evaluating information has always been important, but now is even more critical given we live in an age of "information explosion". Using the following evaluation criteria can help you decide to keep or discard certain information you have found.
Can be determined by looking at the range and extent the subject is dealt with. Questions to ask yourself are:
- What sort of information is covered and what topics?
- Who is it intended for? Is it aimed at primary children, tertiary students, professionals?
- Is it extensive coverage or limited in some way?
Currency or Timeliness
- When was the information published or created?
- Is the information relevant, appropriate or useful for today?
Some topics are affected more than others with respect to currency. For example, science and technology topics are more likely to benefit from up to date material. Other topics are timeless and while they may be old, their information is still relevant today.
Consider the reputation and expertise of the person or organisation who created the information.
- Are they qualified to talk about the subject?
- Have they written/created other material?
- Who are they affiliated to? Will this affect their information?
The accuracy and truthfulness of a work is the most important attribute of all and sometimes is the hardest to determine. Consider the following:
- Are statements or facts supported? Are references or footnotes provided?
- Are the sources of all statistics given? Are graphs and other figures referenced?
- Is it peer-reviewed or from a reputable source?
- Is the creator of the information qualified to talk about the subject?
Bias or Point of View
Information can be subtly or overtly affected by the creator's point of view or bias. Sometimes this can be identified easily, at other times it may be hidden. Bias is not necessarily a bad thing if you are aware of it and can find information to balance it. Support for either side of a controversy can contain "truth".