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College Success Studies 225: Evaluating Information

Cuesta Library Search vs. Google

Google and other search engines will retrieve a ton of information, but the Cuesta Library subscribes to a number of databases that give you access to information not available through other search engines. As depicted in the image below, you can see that the Cuesta Library databases give you access to resources that are part of the "deep web," like scientific reports, conference proceedings, etc. Another bonus is that many of the resources available through the Cuesta Library are scholarly or peer- reviewed, meaning they have been reviewed by other experts. Because of this, you will spend a lot less time evaluating information than if you were to do a standard Internet search.

Google Scholar

An alternative to Google would be Google Scholar, which retrieves scholarly articles only. Anything that shows HTML or PDF on the right of the entry is usually a free, full text article.

What to Consider When Evaluating Information?

Authority

  • Can you locate an author's name or a group name credited on the document?
  • Can you clearly identify the credentials or authority of the author or publisher?
  • Is contact information for the author or publisher provided?
  • Is the author or publisher affiliated with an established publishing house, business, university periodical, or other organization?
  • Does the URL of a web site provide any clues as to the sponsoring group?
  • Is the information supported with a bibliography, works cited page, or footnotes?

Bias

  • Can you detect any political, philosophical, religious, or other bias to the information presented?
  • Are different perspectives presented on the topic or only a single viewpoint?
  • Is the source trying to sell you a product, an idea or a service?

Scope

  • Is there an appropriate amount and depth of information provided to cover the topic?
  • Is the information written to an elementary, average, or advanced level reading audience?
  • Is the information directed toward a general, specialized, or partisan audience?
  • How useful is the information for your topic?

Purpose

  • Is this an opinion article or is it presented as an objective reporting of the facts?
  • What is the point of view or perspective of the author or publisher of the source?

Currency

  • Can you locate when the source was published, posted, last updated, or created?
  • How current or relevant is the information?