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Library Orientation Tutorial: Unit 4.1: Evaluating Sources

Read: Databases vs. Websites

More than likely, your instructors will require that your assignments utilize and cite reliable, authoritative information.  While Google and other search engines are great tools for finding quick facts, they are not always appropriate for academic research because Internet search engines sort results based on how often a website is visited and which websites have paid to be listed at the top of search results. Pellissippi State subscribes to over 100 databases that contain reliable and authoritative information. The infographic below lists some of the major differences between the Library databases and websites.

Infographic showing databases v. websites.

Databases v. Websites: Look for authority, accuracy, currency, bias, coverage, and organization.

Read and Watch: How to Evaluate Websites

Whether you find information on a website or in a database, you should still evaluate the source to determine how reliable it is.  For example, you may find an article through one of the Library databases that was published in 1984.  The information contained in that article was current in 1984, but is it today?  Or, you may find an editorial in the Washington Post online, but it is the nature of editorials to be biased and you should examine who the author is and if they have strong beliefs one way or another about the subject they are writing on.  In addition to when a source was published and where that source appears, information is also evaluated based on the author’s authority, the author or organization’s purpose for publishing the information, and your personal reason for using that particular source.  Evaluating this criteria is as simple as thinking about who, what, where, when, and why. 

Infographic for evaluating sources, showing who, what, where, when, and why.

The 5 W's for evaluating sources: who, what, where, why, and when. Common domain names also shown.


Further Understanding: Evaluating Websites Video

For more on evaluating information sources, view the following video provided by David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana, visit the following websites, or Ask A Librarian.