Critically evaluating information
The books, journal articles and websites recommended for your course or found on your Online Reading List have already been evaluated for their quality by your lecturers.
However, when you are asked to find your own information it’s important to evaluate it for its credibility, reliability, and impartiality.
There is a significant difference between an article on "diets which may prevent cancer" published in a popular culture magazine like Hello, and one that is published in the Nutrition Research journal.
For your work to meet assessment criteria at university level, you need to be able to substantiate your research with acceptable sources. In this section you will learn how to critically evaluate different sources of information. Click on the individual sections to learn more.
Many journals available through Library Search and your Subject Guides have gone through a rigorous vetting process, known as "peer review".
Peer review is a process whereby any article submitted to an academic journal is vetted by several authoritative experts in that field. The reviewer decides if the article should be published, and may make suggestions of change before publishing.
Peer-review is a rigorous vetting process. For example, a Professor at University of Sussex had his 8,000 word paper peer-reviewed upon submission to a scholarly journal, which resulted in 3,000 words worth of comments from 4 reviewers, 1 sub-editor, and one editor. Consequently, peer-reviewed articles are often held in higher regard than those which aren't.
The internet contains a large number of resources that are inaccurate or incorrect.
Although misinformation is not always intentional, some pages are designed to purposefully mislead and it is important to think about what you are reading. Anyone can put anything onto the web.
It is essential that you critically evaluate any resources that you use from the web. Using the CRAAP method, consider the following:
Currency - when was the information published, posted or updated?
Relevance - who is the intended readership?
Authority - who is the author/source?
Accuracy - is the information supported by clear evidence?
Purpose - what's the purpose of the information?
Tools to detect misinformation
Wayback machine – search for websites that have since been taken off the internet.
Snopes – hoax checker.
Quote Investigator – quote checker.
TinEye – verify images for authenticity; you can search by uploading image files.
Google Reverse Image Search – verify images for authenticity; you can search by uploading image files.
Politifact – political facts checker, winner of the Pulizter Prize.
If you are searching Google Scholar or similar search engines and find a scholarly article you can freely access, this article is most likely an “open access” article. The rise of open access publishing have changed the ways scholars share and use journal articles. You need to be extra vigilant when evaluating what appear initially to be scholarly journals.
The rise of open access publishing has resulted in an increase of “predatory” or “vanity” publishing. Opportunistic publishing houses publish content in exchange of publication fees, paid for by the authors. These predatory publishers don’t provide any of the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate academic journals, such as peer-review vetting process. As a result, there is a much higher number of unreliable, unvetted publications published and circulated online.
If you have accessed an open access journal article and want to verify its authenticity as a reputable journal, you can check the name on the directory of open access journals (DOAJ).