Evaluate Sources With the Big 5 Criteria
The Big 5 Criteria can help you evaluate your sources for credibility:
- Currency: Check the publication date and determine whether it is sufficiently current for your topic. Before using a website, ask yourself these questions: Can you tell when the site was last updated? Can you see when the content you need was added? Does the site show signs of not being maintained (broken links, out-of-date information, etc.)?
- Coverage (relevance): Consider whether the source is relevant to your research and whether it covers the topic adequately for your needs.
- Authority: Discover the credentials of the author(s) of the source and determine their level of expertise and knowledge about the subject. On websites, look for an About Us link or something similar to learn about the site's creator. The more you know about the credentials and mission of a site's creators, as well as their sources of information, the better idea you will have about the site's quality.
- Accuracy: Consider whether the source presents accurate information and whether you can verify that information. If your source is a website, does it include references or links to the sources of information it presents? Can you locate these sources so that you can read and interpret the information yourself?
- Objectivity (purpose): Think about the author's purpose in creating the source and consider how that affects its usefulness to your research. Can you detect any bias? Does the author use emotional language? Is the source trying to persuade you about something?