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Evaluating Information: Home

  What is evaluation?

Icon of magnifying glass over list with tick in the centerEvaluation is a key skill when finding and using information. You must be able to distinguish between examples of information of high and low quality, in addition to identifying and applying appropriate quality criteria such as authority and bias. This will enable you to confidently evaluate a range of resources effectively. These resources include books, articles, reports, websites, personal contacts, online tools and more.

Why do we need to evaluate information?  

Evaluation is not just about determining whether a source is reliable or not reliable. It is considering the degree to which a source is reliable for a given purpose. The primary goal of evaluation is to understand the significance and value of a source in relation to other sources and your own thinking on a topic. Sources should be evaluated when doing any research.

Using the 5W1H Framework

When faced with a vast amount of information, it is crucial to develop effective evaluation skills to discern trustworthy sources from unreliable ones. Using the 5W1H framework (Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How), this user guide will help you critically evaluate the information you encounter.     

  • Who is the author/creator/publisher/source/sponsor of the information? 
  • What are the author's credentials/qualifications or organizational affiliations? 
  • How do you know if the author is qualified to write on the topic? 
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or named creator? 
  • Does the information relate to your topic or research question? 
  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade? 
  • Do the authors/creators make their intentions or purpose clear? 
  • Is the information presented as fact, opinion, or propaganda? How do you know? 
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? 
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases? 
  • If the source is online, does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? (e.g., .com .edu .gov .org .net) 
  • If the source is online, are the links functional? 
  • Is the information supported by evidence such as references, bibliographies, research data? 
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed? This can include peer-reviewers and editors. 
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge? 
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors? 
  • When was the information created? 
  • When was the information published or posted? 
  • Has the information been revised or updated? Why was it updated/revised? 
  • Does your topic require current information or older/historical or both? 
  • Who is the intended audience? 
  • If it is an academic source, is the information at a proper level? 
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources? 
  • Why are you using this source? 
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper? Why or why not? 
  • How do you know if the author is qualified to write on the topic?
  • How do you determine the purpose of the information? 
  • How do you verify the credibility of the information? 
  • How does the information fit into the broader context of your research or decision-making process? 

Five small speech bubbles with question marks over big speech bubble with exclamation point.Using the 5W1H framework to evaluate information empowers you to make informed decisions about the credibility and reliability of the sources you encounter. By considering the Who, What Where, When, Why, and How of the information, you can identify biases, verify facts, and assess the relevance of the content to your research or decision-making needs. Always prioritize using reliable sources and corroborate information through multiple channels to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness.

What about Artificial Intelligence Tools?

Generative Artificial Intelligence tools, such as ChatGPT or Google Gemini, are not a reliable source of information. They frequently generate inaccurate, biased or misleading responses, including fabricating references. The University recommends that you must not use artificial intelligence tools to generate content for any of your assessments unless such use has been specifically authorised. See the following Student Hub Knowledge Base article for more detail.

Cite Them Right also has some background information on AI tools and academic work. If you do use artificial intelligence as part of an assignment you need to acknowledge and reference the content used. Cite Them Right has guidance on referencing artificial intelligence in different styles. This covers both content available to all on the internet as well as content you might reference as a personal communication. If you are unsure about use of artificial intelligence do speak to your module teaching staff.

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In addition to the 5W1H framework, we encourage you to look through the related resources below:

Related resources:

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