TLDRoff
Not all the information you find on a topic will be useful to you. You will need to think critically about the information you find and judge whether it is accurate, relevant and appropriate.

Listed below are some simple measures to help you evaluate information.

Authority

The degree to which the producers of information are qualified to present that information.

You should attempt to seek information that has been written or produced by credible and knowledgeable experts. Some questions to ask when assessing the authority of information:

  • Who is the author and what are their qualifications? 
  • What other work have they published in the subject area?
  • Is the author affiliated to a credible organisation or institution?
  • Is the information published by a reputable publisher, such as a university, or other credible organisation?

Objectivity 

The degree to which information is presented from a neutral and objective position.

Ideally, you should seek to use sources of information which present a balanced view. Realistically, it is very hard to find information that is completely objective. It is therefore important that you question what you read and think critically about the positions represented. You should also endeavour to use a wide variety of sources in your work to ensure you are presenting a balanced point of view. Some questions to ask when assessing the objectivity of information:

  • Is the information presented based upon research or the author's opinion?
  • Is there evidence that the author is advocating a particular position or trying to sway opinion?
  • Is the author openly expressing a personal viewpoint?
  • Why has the information been produced? To sell, persuade, inform, entertain?

Timeliness

A measure of how 'up-to-date' information is.

In many disciplines (e.g. law, science, medicine, technology), timeliness is a very important measure of the relevance and accuracy of information, since new discoveries are constantly being made and advances in the discipline can mean that some information becomes outdated very quickly. Therefore, it can be important to ask:

  • When was the information published?
  • Considering your discipline, is the age of the information appropriate?
  • Has the information been revised or updated? 
  • May the information have been superseded by new facts?

Accuracy 

The degree to which information is correct.

It is fairly obvious that you need to use information that is factually correct in your work. If you have already considered the authority, timeliness and objectivity of the information you have found, you will probably already have an idea of the accuracy and reliability of the information. Here are some other questions you can ask when trying to determine the accuracy of information:

  • Can the information the author presents be verified in another source?
  • Are there references to documents which support the arguments the author makes?
  • Is the supporting evidence the author provides of a good standard?
  • Are the references adequate, so that you could go and look up the information and read it for yourself?

Relevancy

The degree to which the information meets your needs. 

You will of course need to consider whether information is relevant to your needs before deciding whether to use it. Some questions to ask when determining the relevancy of the information you have found are:

  • Does the information meet the requirements of your assignment, or your research?
  • Will the information add something to your knowledge, or help support or clarify your point of view?
  • Is the information of an appropriate level for your purposes?
  • Is the information relevant in terms of geographic location, timeliness and any other factors that may be important?

    There is an additional set of considerations when evaluating information found on the internet. Our iPROGRESS Moodle course Finding quality information on the internet outlines the issues you need to consider before trusting information found online and will give you strategies and tips to help you find quality information faster.