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How to Judge Online Research Sources

May 2, 2012

Information Savvy

Many websites, such as Wikipedia, can be great resources to quickly orient yourself on a subject before conducting more in depth research. However, anyone in the world can create and maintain a website or write a seemingly legitimate article and may, intentionally or unintentionally, publish false data or misinformation. When reviewing information online, you should always consider the ABC’s:

Accuracy

Is the information accurate? Can you confirm the same information using other resources published by a different author or organization?

Author

Who composed the information? Can you easily identify the author and contact the author or website publisher?

Bias

What bias might the author or author organization have?

Credibility

What are the author’s or author organization’s credentials for publishing the information? What expertise, experience, or education does the author have in this area that makes him or her qualified to write on the subject matter?

Currency

When was the web page last updated? Is it possible the information might have changed since this web page was last published?

Critical eye

Remember to always use your discretion and critical eye to determine whether information you find on the web (or even in books and news sources) is trustworthy.

Putting websites to the ABC test will get you started in developing a strong critical eye.