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After studying this section you will be familiar with the criteria that must be used to evaluate academic and other information sources, and you will be able to apply these criteria to the information you find.
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.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Content and level of information:
- does the information answer your research question?
- are quality and level of information appropriate to your research question and the aim of the research?
- does your information still reflect the present situation? (see the Staying current chapter)
- have you overlooked any relevant information?
- have you considered all points of view?
- have you been as comprehensive as possible?
Reliability refers to how sure you can be that the information is correct. How credible is the information? How objective is it? 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 to its quality.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Authority of source / organization
- What do you know about the author / organization?
- Does the author / organization receive funding from sponsors (there may be a conflict of interest)?
- Has the quality of the publication been assessed? Are articles peer reviewed?
- Accuracy: check other information sources to find out if factual descriptions are correct, and opinions are supported by facts
- Objectivity: 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 if the information is correct and complete?
More on evaluating information
The criteria discussed for assessing information in books and journals can also be used for information you find on the internet.
There are several characteristics that can help you determine whether an internet site is reliable.
More on reliable and unreliable websites: website evaluation criteria
You can use the CRAAP checklist to evaluate information and information sources.
Fact-checking (internet) news
Academic sources may be assumed to be trustworthy and reliable: presented facts have been checked in the peer review process. This does not apply to (internet) news.
The amount of misinformation spread on the internet is staggering. It is spread mainly via websites, social networks, and email. The hot topics for such misinformation are politics, government policies, religion, health and various scams and hoaxes. Thousands of new articles are published online every minute of every day. Unfortunately not all news is factual or true, making it hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Some websites have taken up the task of spreading awareness about fake news, by presenting evidence and hard facts to help the public distinguish between truth and rumors: the fact-checkers. A "fact-check" tag label identifies articles that are fact-checked by news publishers and fact-checking organizations. The label is not available for every search result.
The same claim has to be checked by different publishers / organizations in order to get the fact-check label. The fact-checking service will provide unbiased sources to support their claims.
Some Fact-checking websites
Fact-Checking page includes updates from the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, as well as "stories about trends and best practices in fact-checking worldwide".
Fact-checking resources: a guide to finding reliable answers to timely question by the American Press Institute. Includes the Fact-Checking Journalism Project.
Politifact: rates the accuracy of claims by elected officials and others who speak up in American politics...
Snopes: the Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.
Nieuwscheckers: Dutch fact checking in association with nu.nl and Facebook.
Check out the LibGuide of the University of California at Berkeley for an overview of fact- checkers.