Some things to consider when evaluating a resource:
- Who is the author? What is the author's occupation, position, title, education, experience, etc? Is the author qualified (or not) to write on the subject?
- What is the purpose for writing the article or doing the research?
- To what audience is the author writing? Is it intended for the general public, scholars, policy makers, teachers, professionals, practitioners, etc? Is this reflected in the author's style of writing or presentation? How so?
- Does the author have a bias or make assumptions upon which the rationale of the publication or the research rests?
- What method of obtaining data or conducting research was employed by the author? Is the article (or book) based on personal opinion or experience, interviews, library research, questionnaires, laboratory experiments, case studies, standardized personality tests, etc.?
- At what conclusions does the author arrive?
- Does the author satisfactorily justify the conclusions from the research or experience? Why or why not?
- How does this study compare with similar studies? Is it in tune with or in opposition to conventional wisdom, established scholarship, professional practice, government policy, etc.? Are there specific studies, writings, schools of thought, philosophies, etc., with which this one agrees or disagrees and of which one should be aware?
- Are there significant attachments or appendixes such as charts, maps, bibliographies, photos, documents, tests, or questionnaires? If not, should there be?
These guidelines were developed by the Reference Department staff at McIntyre Library, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Engeldinger, Eugene A., "Bibliographic Instruction and Critical Thinking," RQ 28:195-202 (Winter 1988).
In addition to these questions, other considerations may include the date of publication and the publisher. The guidelines listed above were specifically developed to help evaluate print sources but they're a good starting point for evaluating any type of information source including television programs, videos, and electronic resources. For more information about evaluating information sources see How to Critically Analyze Information Sources from Cornell. In fact, the entire site Library Research: A Hypertext Guide is worth a look. It offers advice on all aspects of library research.
When a source comes from the Web some of the questions listed above cannot be easily answered, but the guidelines should help you approach information with some measure of critical analysis. It is important that we apply critical standards to the information we find on the Internet. Here are some sites that talk specifically about evaluating web resources.