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BIZ 2401: Information Systems

5 Ws

Evaluating sources is a critical part of doing research!

There are many different approaches to evaluating sources, both traditional print books/journals and websites. They generally use similar criteria. I prefer using the 5 Ws:

  • Who
  • What 
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Based on Kathy Schrock’s 5 W's of Web Site Evaluation

who is the author? ask: is the author listed? what

Tip: Is this information published by an organization or company? If there is no other author listed, consider the organization/company to be the author.

evaluating sources: what is the purpose of the source? ask: is the information accurate and free of bias? does the author provide a list of sources? [picture of referee] look for: "about" page, inflammatory language

evaluating sources: when was this published? ask: is this source current enough for your topic? Has it been updated? [picture of old rotary phones; picture of rusty old car] look for: date of publication or last update, usually found at the bottom of the page; current links to outside sources

evaluating sources: where is this source coming from? ask: who produces the website? where can I find more information about the sponsors or publishers? [image of map, image of figure with spyglass] look for: domain name can help you identify government and educational institution sites (.gov and .edu); "about" page, but you should also look at outside sources to learn more

evaluating sources: Why? The most important question when evaluating sources is WHY. Why are you using this source? Does it add something new to your argument? Does it seem like a quality source based on who, what, when, and where? [images of question marks] [image of figure scratching head]

Determining Bias

Determining bias in a source can be challenging because it isn't always obvious; bias can be very subtle. There also isn't a single step to take, but the steps that you take to evaluate a source can help you identify bias. 

The following guide from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Libraries lays out some excellent steps if you're having trouble.

Evaluate Sources

Throughout the research process, you should be evaluating your sources to determine if they meet your research needs. Below are some guidelines to follow in the evaluation of your sources. These guidelines can be applied to books, articles, websites and any other resource you may be using.  

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