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ENG 101 Composition

Evaluating Sources

Website Articles May Not Be Accurate

Because anyone can create a website with no checks for accuracy, take caution when using a website for a source. While website articles can be a good source of information, they are more likely to have inaccuracies compared to peer-reviewed journals or reputable newspapers. However, there are ways to check to see if the website article is accurate. 

Look at the Domain

A domain is the last three letters of a URL. For example, Google is .com.  A .com website can generated by anyone and may have little checks for accuracies. Meanwhile, these types of domains are far more likely to have accurate and relevant information: 

Domain Details  Example
.gov Website information comes from an government agency irs.gov
.edu Website information comes from an education source like a college, school, or university qvcc.edu
.org Website information comes from an official nonprofit organization ecosia.org

Evaluate The Website 

To check if a website is a good source, be sure to ask the following questions in these categories: 

Criteria Question
Accuracy

Are there sources or links on the website that back up their claims? 

Do you see citations (MLA, APA, Chicago) or a Works Cited section?

Authority

Is the author an expert in this field of content? 

Is there any information regarding the background of the author? 

Does the author have any qualifications, awards, or credentials? 

Objectivity

Does the article feel bias? 

Is the article more interested in selling a project rather than provide information?

What is the main point of the article? Is it more focused on supplying facts or just opinions? 

Currency

How old is the article? Can you find a "last updated" note?

If this article is very old, how relevant is it now? Is it still useful? 

Coverage

Compared to other sources on this topic, how useful is this source? 

Are there other sources that cover this topic better? More accurately? 

 

Evaluate the information

Sometimes you will need to evaluate the information not only based on the place you originally located the information, but also the overall context of the information.  How can you tell if a website that you would like to use looks like it is credible but still contains questionable information.  Even the best of us can be tricked into believing and re-posting bad information!

  • Have you looked at/compared several articles from the first or second page of results to get a sense of what is out there before starting to read individual pages?  Getting a feel for what information is out there will help you pick the sources that are likely to be most useful for your current project.
  • Has the information been taken out of context?  Have important parts of the information been left out or changed?  Context is key in understanding the trustworthiness of the information you have.  Any piece of information you have that has been taken out of context should be traced back to its original source.
  • Have you located the best presentation of the information?  While the information may be the same across multiple locations, it may be easier to read, easier to understand, or presented by a more trustworthy source in particular places.
  • Is it easy to find where the information originated? Have you found the same information on several different pages?  Is there a consensus about the issue or piece of information?  It has become easier to manipulate information online.  The information may have been taken out of context, or the information may have been changed.

Bias: the favoring of a particular view, belief, or opinion that may detract the audience from understanding the objective truth.

All sources have some sort of Bias as objective truth is incredibly difficult to convey. It’s more important to determine the level of bias and how much it is “swayed” or “favored” from the objective truth. There are many types of Bias, and those types explain how or why the truth is “swayed”

Political Bias

Depending on the news source, certain topics may be presented with significant bias.

A topic on the Left may focus on “leftist” issues in a more positive light than the Right—and vice versa.

A more central news source will attempt to limit bias, but that does not guarantee objective truth.

Corporation Bias

Media or Research can be presented in a certain way to bolster the image or objective of a corporation. Typically, this happens when research has been funded by a corporation. This does not mean that data is falsified, but certain data may be highlighted or ignored to come to a different conclusion.

This also does not imply that the researchers themselves acted in bad faith, but the ones providing the funding influenced the outcome.

Confirmation Bias

Understanding truths or changing one’s opinion can be difficult, and humans are not logical creatures, they are emotional. Often, people will seek material that supports their beliefs, rather than go against it.

Researchers may alter data to get the results they want to believe are true.

Sometimes, it is in the best interest of media to publish materials that support an accepted truth rather than challenge it.

How to Avoid Bias

Read multiple sources.

Rely on more reputable sources and avoid questionable sources.

Check those see if the source has citations, and check those citations for verification. 

Determine what type of bias may be used and how that might influence the source.

What is Peer-Review? 

Peer-Reviewed article has been properly vetted by professionals in that certain field to ensure its accuracy and relevance. 

  • While peer-reviewed does not guarantee the article from inaccuracies, it greatly reduces the chances of it. 
  • It is highly recommended to have several peer-reviewed articles in your research. 

Newspapers, websites, or results found on a general internet search are more than likely NOT Peer-reviewed

The most reliable way to find a peer-reviewed article is look at journals found on databases

How to know if the article is peer-reviewed: 

The easiest method to check if it is peer reviewed is to use one of QV's Databases

In your search results, depending on the database, they will be a check box on the left-hand side that will say something like:

LIMIT TO PEER REVIEW PEER-REVIEWED JOURNALS