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Information literacy - Media Studies: Evaluation criteria: relevance and reliability


Information is relevant when it helps you to answer your research question. You assess the information on the basis of format, content and degree of up-to-dateness.

Content and level of the information

Does the information relate to your research question and the aim of your research?

Ask yourself the following questions:

* Does the information answer my research question?

* Are the quality and the level of the information appropriate to my research question and the aim of the research?

If you are conducting academic research into depression, an article from Cosmopolitan or Hello! will not provide information of the standard you require. Articles from academic journals are more appropriate. (See the chapter Choosing information sources)

Which publications are most suitable depends on your information requirement. I.e. if you need current, in-depth information on a topic it is better to consult recent journal articles in stead of a handbook. And in preparation for writing a light-hearted article for Rolling Stone you are probably not going to study a monograph.

How complete is the information you have found?
Are you sure you haven‘t overlooked any relevant information? Have you considered all the selected opinions? Being comprehensive is usually not possible and also usually not necessary at this stage of your academic career.


The term ‘current’ usually refers to recent events or developments. In order to determine whether information is current, check whether it still reflects the present situation. A book or article that was not written recently may still be current.

Usually current information is required, but not always. The importance of this criterion depends on your research question.

Checklist for evaluating information and information sources

The CRAAP test is a useful checklist for evaluating information and information sources.


This refers to how sure you can be that the information is correct. How credible is the information? How objective is the information? There are several aspects to take into consideration when you are assessing how reliable your information is. These aspects relate to the origin of the information as well as its quality.

Authority of the source (author/organization) and origin of the document

* What do you know about the author? Is he an authority on the subject? Is he a recognized author in his subject area? Which organization does he work for?

* What do you know about the organization? Publications by well-known and respected organizations are generally more reliable than material published by vague charitable foundations with dubious or unclear objectives.

* Does the author or organization receive funding from sponsors? Sponsorship is not necessarily a problem, but be aware of any commercial interests that may be involved.

* Is the quality of the publication assessed? If so, is this done by editors? Are articles peer reviewed?  Peer-reviewed articles are very reliable because they have been critically assessed by more than one expert/academic.



* Are the supposedly factual descriptions correct? Check whether they are backed up by information in other sources.
* Are opinions supported by facts?


* Is informing the reader the author's primary goal, or is he rather trying to persuade his audience? (Opinion-forming, propaganda, etc.)
* Is the information based on hard facts or on opinions?
* Is the subject explored from different perspectives?


* Are source references provided?
* What is the quality of the cited sources?
* Is it possible to verify whether the information is correct and complete?

Fake news

Fake news is an expression often used to refer to fabricated news. This type of news, found in traditional news, social media or fake news websites, has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate (Wikipedia).

There are various motivations behind the creatiion of fake news: poor journalism, parody, provocation, passion, partisanship, profit, political influence or propaganda (see categories of fake news).

False information may then be disseminated in various ways: (unwittingly or deliberately) shared on social media, amplified by journalists, pushed out by loosely connected groups attempting to influence public opinion and spread as part of sophisticated disinformation campaigns using bots and troll factories. Or simply as click bait, in order to make money. Fake news often uses sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines.

Please note that intentionally misleading and deceptive fake news is different from obvious satire or parody, which is intended to amuse rather than mislead its audience.

Fake news takes all forms, any format that can convey information can also convey disinformation: print, online, podcasts, YouTube videos, radio shows, images.

Fake news has become a daily phenomenon in the changing media landscape where readers are becoming publishers themselves. Therefore being able to spot fake news and to assess the qualityof news become more and more important skills.

Check out the Library of Groningen's LibGuide on fake news.

Check out this University of California at Berkeley LibGuide on fake news and fact-checkers.

Fact-checking websites