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Evaluating Information and Avoiding Fake News

Is the coverage appropriate?

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Is the Coverage Appropriate?

Questions to ask
BulletIn what context was the information written? For example, where and when was it written? Why was it written? Who was the intended audience - general readers, experts, academics?
BulletIs the content appropriate for your level of study?
BulletWhat time period is covered by the article?
BulletWhat geographical area is covered? For example, books about divorce law in Canada don't help people in Kentucky.
BulletIs this information part of a more comprehensive source? If so, who abridged it and why?
BulletIs it original information, or information reproduced from another webpage or print publication?
BulletDoes the page require special software to view information? If so, are you missing some of the information?
BulletIs some information limited to fee-paying customers?
BulletIs it primary or secondary source material?

What to look for on a webpage
BulletIs there an abstract or summary that may be useful for evaluating the source?
BulletIf the source is abridged, is there a link to the original?
BulletDo you see links to pay for further information? Are there "pop-ups" requesting payment in order to see the all the information?
BulletAre there references?

What to look for in print material
BulletAre there references? Is there a bibliography?
BulletIs there an abstract, preface or  introduction that will help in evaluating the appropriateness of the coverage?

Check your instructor’s guidelines to be sure you have covered all aspects of your research topic.

Examples of online primary sources

Primary and Secondary Sources

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BulletPrimary sources are original documents or objects that provide first-hand information such as diaries, letters, memoirs, speeches, interviews, eye-witness accounts, original artwork, photographs, audio or video recordings.
BulletPrimary sources can also be first-hand accounts of studies, surveys, data, or statistics. If the person who conducted the study wrote the article, it is a primary source.
BulletSecondary sources are secondhand accounts that interpret, analyze, and discuss primary sources.

WKU Libraries has subscriptions to the databases listed below. These databases contain primary sources.

Is the currency important?

Questions to ask
BulletWhen was the resource originally created?
BulletHas the resource been recently updated?
BulletIs the information current enough for your topic? Be sure to put currency into context. Computer science is an area that moves very quickly, so sources need to be more recent than a topic such as history.
BulletWho maintains the website? Is the site stable? Will you be able to access it a month from now? If the URL changes is a hyperlink to the new site made available?
BulletAre there broken links that would indicate that the site is not being kept up-to-date?

BulletDoes the software used in the site present limitations?

What to look for on a webpage
BulletLook near the top and the bottom of the webpage to see if any publication date, copyright date or "date last modified" is indicated.
BulletLook for other indications that the page is kept current. Is there a "What's New" section? If you are using a website with content written by different people, there may be different dates - a date for the website as a whole, and a date when the individual article/post was written.
BulletCheck the collected date and / or published date of any statistical data or charts.

What to look for in print material
BulletLook at the publications details at the front of a book.  Has the information been revised or updated? For a journal, look on the cover or title page.