Critically Analyzing Information Sources

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Critically Analyzing Information Sources

http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7320000/newsid_7324100/7324112.stm

Overview:

    Why do we need to evaluate all sources?

Why do we need to evaluate what we find on the Internet.

How do I begin my research and avoid running into problems?

How do we evaluate all of these sources?

Why we need to evaluate

all

Sources

 In the research process you will encounter many types of sources but not everything you find will be suitable.

 Authors have different purposes and may not be credible, reliable or objective.

 Some sources can be out-of-date or incorrect (e.g.. Is Pluto a planet?)

 

Why we need to evaluate what we find on the Internet?

Anyone can and probably will put anything on the internet E.g. http://www.malepregnancy.com/  It is often difficult to tell…   Many things are not filtered or reviewed on the internet by a refereeing process, by peers or an authority, by publication or editor, by libraries.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Hortons

 Is it the original? Has it been quoted out of context? Plagiarized ? h  w .

/ : / p t t w w m y c  http://www.mycoalproductions.com/cnn.html

How do I begin my research and avoid these problems?

 Identify and develop your topic  Identify YOUR purpose. Is your research topic formal or informal?

FORMAL (e.g.. Formal scientific research) INFORMAL (e.g.. Essay on popular culture or political bias) -need peer edited info. -validated by qualified professionals -can reference informal or primary sources that represent different points of view

 Work from general to specific  Find background information from trustworthy places. ( Databases, encyclopedias, known experts in the field, your textbook and lecture notes)  Learn to evaluate what you find.

 Cite what you find.

Evaluating Sources: Basic Principles

 Evaluating sources requires you to think critically by asking a series of questions.

Quantity:

-you need enough resources to support your argument/findings/ thesis/hypothesis -need to include a variety of viewpoints and materials

Diversity:

-include many different resources 1.

2.

P

rimary sources (contemporary accounts of an event and original documents, novels, poems… Secondary Sources (Retrospective sources based on primary resources; include scientific or scholarly analysis such as books, reviews…)

Look at the specific resource:

Author

/Authority - what are the credentials or the author’s affiliation, educational background, past work, or experience?

-Has this author been cited before?

Currency –

published? when was the source

-

is it current or out-of-date for your topic?

Publisher

– if the source is published by University Press, it is likely to be scholarly but… you still need to evaluate it.

Intended Audience-

What is its purpose? Is to persuade? Educated? Entertain?

Style-

Is it organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Is it repetitive?

Reviews-

locate critical reviews of books in a reviewing source.

Is the review positive? Is it considered a valuable contribution to the field? Are other (better) books mentioned?

Use the checklist given to you today

Evaluating Websites

 1. What can the URL tell you?

Questions to ask: Is it someone’s personal page?

 Look for a personal name (e.g., jbarker) following the (~), a percent sign (%), or the words “users,” “members,” or “people.”  e.g. http://server.state.edu/~jsmith/mypage.html

 What type of domain does it come from?

(Not always straightforward clues. E.g.

www.whitehouse.org

)

URL .org

.biz

.com

.edu

.gov

.info

.net

What it means

non-commercial organizations business organizations Commercial organizations Educational organizations government information organizations Network-related organizations

 Who published the page?

In general, the “publisher” is the agency or person running the server computer from which the document is issued.

The server is named in first portion of the URL (between http://and the first /) E.g.. http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/ but E.g.. http://www.martinlutherking.org/ -have you heard of this server before and does it correspond with the name of the site?

2. Scan the perimeter of the page.

1. Look for links that say “about us,” “Philosophy,” “Background,” etc.

2. If you can’t find these links, you can truncate back the URL.

-delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before each/(leave the slash). Press enter. Continue the process until you locate the first single / which is preceded by the domain name.

Let us try…

Let’s say I wanted information on war brides: http://www.vac acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=hist ory/secondwar/warbrides

 Is it dated and current?

-look for the “last updated”

 What are the credentials of the author?

-does the author look qualified?

-if you can’t find strong, relevant credentials, look closely at documentation of sources.

-you should hold the author to the same degree of credentials, authority and documentation that you’d expect from something published.

3. Content

    Look for “links,” “additional sites,” “related links,” etc.

If you see footnotes or documentation, take the time to explore them.

Are the links good ones?

Where did the author get information?

 An exception to documentation may be journalism from highly reputable newspapers. But these are not “scholarly.” (talk to your teacher first)  Are the links well chosen and provide a balanced view or do they indicate bias?

4. Is it considered Reputable?

 Use www.alexa.com

URL information and click on “overview.” It will show details on the volume of traffic to the page.

 “Wayback Machine” provides an archive of what the page looked like in the past. http://www.archive.org/index.php

 Do a link: search in Google and copy the URL into the search box immediately following (link:) http://www.google.com/  Look up the author’s name in Google e.g.. “Samantha Webauthor” (in quotes as a phrase)

5.Purpose of the Web Page

 Why was the page put on the web? -inform, give facts, give data?

-persuade, explain -sell, entice -disclose e.g. http://www.bandhmo.org/

 What is the tone of the page” -Is it humorous? A parody? Exaggerated?

-Are there outrageous photographs?  Is this as credible and useful as the resources (books, journal articles, etc.) available in print or online through the library?

And finally…

 Remember that it is easy to be fooled and this can make you look foolish in turn.

 If in doubt, leave it out!

Works Cited:

 n.d Teaching Library, UC Berkeley. 17 Apr. 2008.

 n.d. 17 Apr. 2008.

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