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Evaluating Information and Avoiding Fake News

How accurate are your sources?

Questions to ask
BulletWhere did this information come from?
BulletIs the author of the source clearly stated?
BulletAre there contact details for the author?
BulletDoes the author list their credentials and affiliations, and can they be verified?
BulletIs the information supported by evidence?
BulletHas the information been peer reviewed or refereed?
BulletAre there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

What to look for on a webpage
BulletCheck the title, the section headings, and the opening paragraphs to see if a person or organisation is named as being responsible for the content of the webpages. Keep in mind that the webmaster or person who designed the webpage is not necessarily the one responsible for the content of the page.
BulletIf you can't find any information about the author on the page you're looking at, then you can go back in stages to the home page.  Delete from the end of the URL backwards to the first slash mark ("/") and press Enter on the keyboard.  If you still don't see any information about the author, back up to the next slash mark. Keep going until you come to the site's homepage. See the Internet Detective URL clues page for more detail.

BulletCheck the domain name portion of the URL as the domain name often indicates what type of organisation and what country the webpage comes from.

What to look for in print material
BulletCheck the bookcover blurb and look for information about the credentials of the author.
BulletCheck for references;  in journals look for information about the credentials of the editorial board (if there is one).

Websites and Domain Names

Websites and Domain Names

One way to get a quick idea of who is sponsoring or publishing a website is to understand the domain name portion of the URL.

.com Commercial businesses and for-profit organisation.
.edu  Educational institutions including primary schools in many countries.
.net    Organisations directly involved in Internet operations.
.org    Miscellaneous organisations that don't fit any other category, such as non-profit groups.
.gov   any government organisations.
~ (tilde)   Web pages created independently by individuals.
country codes A two-letter international standard abbreviation such as ".de" for Germany or ".uk" for the United Kingdom.
 .ac.uk The .ac refers to "academic" and is used by United Kingdom universities.

Are your sources objective?

Being able to recognize bias is a key skill to acquire. If an information source is biased this does not necessarily mean that it can't be used, but you may need to look for other sources with differing points of view, or sources written objectively to "balance the bias scales."

Questions to ask
BulletIs the information written on behalf of a lobby group, think tank, religious or political organization? Read the "About Us" page and do more research to find out about the author and / or organization if necessary.
BulletAre facts and arguments presented for both sides of an issue or only the author's own point of view?

BulletDoes the webpage include advertising? If so, can you tell clearly which parts are advertisement and which parts are information?
BulletDoes the webpage present as information but is actually an advertisement?

What to look for on a webpage
BulletDoes the page use inflammatory language, images, or graphic styles?

What to look for in print material
BulletFor books examine the preface or introduction for hints about the author's purpose and point of view. For journals check whether the journal is a refereed or peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Is the author credible?

Is the Author Credible?

Questions to ask
BulletWhat qualifications does this person or organization have to discuss this topic? Does the author have a university degree in the discipline? Is the author an amateur, or someone using the opportunity to express their own opinions.
BulletDoes the URL indicate what type of organisation the information is coming from?  If an organization is responsible for the pages, is the organization widely recognized as a source of scholarly and reliable information?  For example, CSIRO for science topics.

BulletHas the author provided any evidence to back up their information?
BulletCan the information and the references be verified elsewhere?
BulletIs there any evidence the information has gone through a peer-review process?

What to look for on a webpage
BulletInformation about the author and the author's contact details – look for a link to a university or professional organization.
BulletInformation about any organization associated with the webpage – look for a link called "About Us" or something similar.
BulletLinks to other articles and publications by the person or organization.

BulletIf  you can't find any information about the author on the webpage, do another search to see if it is possible to  identify the credentials of the author and /or organization.

What to look for in print material
BulletCheck the book cover for biographical information about the author.
BulletCheck within the source for a list of references, bibliography or footnotes.

If you can't verify that the information is authoritative, don't use it!