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BIZ 1001: TREX for Business Students

Evaluating Sources

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]

Other helpful hints about websites

Utilize domains to evaluate websites

Knowing what the domains stand for can assist you in your evaluation.  

.gov - Government - indicates that the site is sponsored by federal, state or local government.  The federal government sponsors several educational sites covering many topics from medicine to plants.  The government also has many sites with helpful statistical information.

.edu - Education - indicates that the site is sponsored by an educational institution.  As always, carefully evaluate the information on these pages as individual students and faculty can utilize the space to present a variety of information.  

.org - Organization - usually indicates that the site is sponsored by an organization, but this domain is now available to anyone.  These pages sometimes present useful information but can also be used to persuade and present one side of an issue.  

.com - Company - usually a commercial site that is selling a product or service.