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Fact Checking - Public Policy

Critically Evaluating Sources

Misinformation

  • False or inaccurate information
  • Created with or without the intent to do harm
  • Examples
    • Rumors
    • Humor
    • Disinformation

Disinformation

  • False information presented as being factually accurate
  • Deliberately false & spread with the intent to do harm
  • Usually sensational
  • Often mimics reputable media sources
  • Examples
    • Propaganda
    • Hoaxes
    • Fake News

 

 

You should evaluate each source of information you encounter to ensure that the material is credible.
Look to the Surface-Level Evaluation and Content Evaluation tabs to learn more about how to assess the credibility of sources.
Below is a sample source you can practice evaluating according to the criteria listed in this guide.

 

For each source that you are considering incorporating in your research, look to some basic citation information and ask yourself the following questions to help determine whether the source is credible and fit to utilize:


Author

  • What types of credentials does the author have?
    • Are they affiliated with an institution, like a university, governmental agency, or organization? What are the reputation and values of said institution?
    • What is their educational background?
    • Do they have previously published works?
    • What other experiences, whether professional, educational, or otherwise, do they have that may affect their authority on a given subject?
  • Is the author's area of expertise relevant to the topic of the source?

Publication Date

  • Is the information current or out-of-date?
  • Since the original publication date, have there been updates to, revisions of, or new editions of the material that reflect new information?

Journal/Periodical/Website

  • What type of journal/periodical is the material published in? Is it popular or scholarly?
    • Identifying this information can be a good indicator of the purpose and depth of the material as well as the intended audience.
  • Does the journal/periodical/website require material go through an editing process before being published?
  • Is the website the material is found on reputable?

Publisher

  • Who is the publisher of the source?
  • What is the reputation of the publisher?
  • Does the publisher have a political or economic agenda?

"Critically Evaluating Sources: Surface Level Evaluation" is adapted from "Critically Analyzing Information Sources: Critical Appraisal and Analysis" by Research & Learning Services of Olin Library at Cornell University Library, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

Creative Commons License
"Critically Evaluating Sources: Surface Level Evaluation" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence by Liz Dunne.

After conducting a surface-level evaluation and reading a source, it's time to analyze the content of the source.

Look to the following aspects of the content and ask yourself the corresponding questions to evaluate whether or not you find the source to be a credible source of information.


Purpose & Objectivity

  • Is the information presented in the work meant to inform, entertain, or persuade?
  • Are the author's intentions made clear?
  • What audience is the author primarily addressing? Does the source cater to a specific group?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • What biases (political, cultural, etc.) exist in the work?

Coverage & Depth

  • Does the source substantiate other materials you have read or does it deviate from other sources of information?
  • Are there other perspectives to consider?
  • Is the information provided substantial enough to support a claim?
  • Are there gaps in the information?
  • Does the source provide specific, important details about the topic?

Logic‚Äč & Accuracy

  • Does the information make sense with what is already known about a topic?
  • Are any assumptions made reasonable?
  • Do sources mentioned actually support the information?
  • Is the information well-researched, verifiable, and supported by other credible sources?

Writing Style

  • Is the material organized in a logical way?
  • Are the main ideas clearly expressed?
  • Is the work free of spelling, grammatical, and formatting errors?

 


"Critically Evaluating Sources: Content Analysis" is adapted from "Critically Analyzing Information Sources: Critical Appraisal and Analysis" by Research & Learning Services of Olin Library at Cornell University Library, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

 

Creative Commons License
"Critically Evaluating Sources: Surface Level Evaluation" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence by Liz Dunne.

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