Tool

Evaluating Information

In this unit, the student will evaluate the quality of information.
 

Evaluating Information Video (Part 1)

Evaluate sources by reviewing the author(s), the accuracy of information, and relevancy of information in this 7:34 minute tutorial created by Bethany Mickel.

Evaluating Information Video Transcript (Part 1)

[IMAGE of tools in the Madison Research Essentials Toolkit]

Narrator: Welcome back to the Madison Research Essentials Toolkit.

[IMAGE of the Information Literacy learning objectives, focusing on the third competency]

Narrator: In this module, we’re going to talk about this general education Information Literacy learning outcome [ZOOM in to the text]: “Evaluate the quality of the information.”

[IMAGE of man looking at laptop]

Narrator: Why is the evaluation of information a critical skill? Consider how easy it is to find information. By simply typing a term into any search engine, you are met with numerous results. How do we know the quality of those results?

[IMAGE of two girls whispering to one another]

Narrator: Think back to when you were younger and would hear gossip of the he said/she said variety. One of the first things you might say to someone is, “who said that?” Or, perhaps, “where did you hear that?” Even at an early age, we become evaluators of the quality and authenticity of information.

[IMAGE of the word ‘authority’ with other words surrounding it]

Narrator: One of the first ways we might evaluate information is by looking at its authority. Authority is a complex topic…so be sure to watch the second tutorial within this module for additional insight.

[IMAGE of a portion of an article about educational technology]

Narrator: Oftentimes, when you find a scholarly article such as this one, you will see the author’s credentials [ZOOM to highlight the name and credentials of the author] and some information about his or her area of expertise. In this example, we can see that the article is about education technology and that these authors are authorities in the field of education and technology.

[IMAGE of a portion of a TeachHUB.com website page]

Narrator: Authority becomes especially important when viewing websites. Oftentimes, you will find websites that don’t have any author information listed at all. In this case, we do have a name provided [ZOOM to show the author’s name]; however, when I attempt to learn more about her credentials, I discover that she is a contributing writer for this website and would be considered more of a journalist than a scholar [ZOOM out of the image] While we don’t want to discount this person’s knowledge, she is probably not the expert that you are looking for…

[IMAGE of the previous article and the previous website side-by-side with the text ‘scholarly source’ under the article and ‘popular source’ under the web page.]

Narrator: …in comparison to the authors of the journal article we examined where their backgrounds and advanced degrees are in the field of education and technology. We would call the journal article a scholarly source and this particular web article a popular source.

[IMAGE of stacked papers]

Narrator: Another component of authority that we want to examine is who wrote the information. Are they always writing information that relates to your topic? If so, then we can assume that they have some level of expertise.

[IMAGE of JMU Libraries’ Quicksearch box with the name ‘Billings, Andrew’ typed in the search box on the left side and the search results with results listing articles from Andrew Billings on the right]

Narrator: Let’s take a look at an example. [ZOOM in to the search box on the left side of the page] If I do an author search for Andrew Billings, I receive a listing of what he has authored and co-authored. [ZOOM in on the search results]: I can see that he has researched and written a number of articles within the field of sports media and communication. This knowledge leads me to believe that he is an authority within this field.

[IMAGE of a portion of the journal article with British Journal of Educational Technology outlined in red]

Narrator: Where an article is published is also important in considering authority. Let’s revisit the journal article we viewed earlier. If we are researching technology in education, we can see that this particular article appears in a publication entitled [ZOOM to the words British Journal of Educational Technology].

[IMAGE of search results that show British Journal of Educational Technology as the journal]

Narrator: If we search further, we can see that the British Journal of Educational Technology is a regular publisher of content related to educational technology and would be considered an authoritative source.

[IMAGE of a magnifying glass and a page of text]

Narrator: Another part of assessing authority is considering the peer review process.

[IMAGE of the ProQuest search page]

Narrator: When you search within most databases, you have the opportunity to limit your search to peer reviewed journals [ZOOM to red box that outlined the Limit to Peer Reviewed checkbox] If your article has been peer reviewed, it basically means that it was submitted to a publisher and peers within the same field of study and they have verified that it meets a pre-established criterial for publication. Professional journals are excellent sources for authoritative information due to peer review.

[IMAGE of page with ‘stay tuned…’]

Narrator: Once again, since the concept of authority is essential to quality, scholarly research, please view the separate tutorial for a more in-depth examination.

[IMAGE of dart board bulls-eye with TEXT of accuracy evaluation criteria]

Narrator: Another way to evaluate the quality of information is to check for its accuracy. There are a variety of ways to do so including looking at the publication date, examining the works cited, and considering the research methods.

[IMAGE of TEXT of part of a journal article]

Narrator: The importance of a publication date depends on your topic. For example, if we look at this article and see that it was published in 1977 [ZOOM to the date 1977] with the title “Computers as an Innovation in American Local Governments,” [ZOOM out] we can see that—unless you are doing historical research—this article is not going to give you up-to-date information on the impact of technology in American governments today.

[IMAGE of TEXT of part of a journal article]

Narrator: In other instances, the date may not matter. Let’s say that you are examining literary theories through a historical lens. In this case, this article from 1977 [ZOOM to the date 1977] is still going to provide you with valuable information of theories that have been around for a while.

[IMAGE of calendar with date circled]

Narrator: In short, the importance of the date depends on your topic; however, it is something that is essential to examine when evaluating the accuracy of information.

[IMAGE of dart board bulls-eye with TEXT ‘examine works cited’ featured]

Narrator: Another element of accuracy is the works cited listing [ZOOM to text ‘examine works cited’] When examining a research article that is trying to provide evidence, you will come across references.

[IMAGE of TEXT of a literature review with parenthetical citations boxed in red]

Narrator: Let’s revisit an article we viewed previously. As you can see, the authors include references to other research.

[IMAGE of TEXT of a reference page]

Narrator: At the very end of the article, you will also see a listing of references or works cited. The presence of these citations indicates that the author conducted careful, evidence-based research. You want to make sure that the information you are evaluating is supported.

[IMAGE of dart board bulls-eye with TEXT ‘consider research methods’ featured]

Narrator: The final method for determining accuracy [ZOOM to text ‘consider research methods’] is to examine the research methods that were used. In many cases, there will be a designated section outlining the research methods used.

[IMAGE of TEXT of the methods portion of an article]

Narrator: Once again, examining the same article, we can see a portion of the section that the authors dedicated to outlining their methods of research.

[IMAGE of the word ‘relevancy’]

Narrator: The last area we will examine in this tutorial is relevancy.

[IMAGE microscope below TEXT reading ‘a high-resolution benthic stable-isotope record for the South Atlantic: Implications for orbital-scale changes in Late Paleocene-Early Eocene climate and carbon cycling’]

Narrator: Let’s examine the following article title, “A high-resolution stable-isotope record for the South Atlantic: Implications for orbital-scale changes in Late Paleocene-Early Eocene climate and carbon cycling.”

[IMAGE of graphic of a head with a question mark next to TEXT to an article abstract]

Narrator: When I view the abstract—an especially helpful way to get an overview of the contents of the article—I see a number of words that are unfamiliar to me. I may determine that this article is above my current level of understanding and relevancy is lost.

[IMAGE of a weighted scale]

Narrator: You must also keep in mind bias. There is a possibility that—if someone is representing a specific point of view—there might be a level of bias. It is important that we evaluate the person’s agenda. Make sure to ask yourself, “who is saying this?” and consider if they might have an agenda. A person who has a vested interest in a company or stockholdings might not be a neutral source of information and the information would not be considered relevant.

[IMAGE of TEXT of a parking meter indicating ‘time expired’]

Narrator: The final item of relevancy is one that we already touched on—the currency of information. As mentioned before, make sure to look at the date of publication to determine if the information is still relevant.

[IMAGE of JMU Libraries’ homepage with ‘Ask the Library’ IMAGE circled in red]

Narrator: This tutorial should have provided you with some important aspects to consider when evaluating information. Do you still have questions? Feel free to use the Ask the Library [ZOOM to image of librarians and ‘Ask the Library’ link circled in red] link on the library homepage to connect with a librarian. We are here to help. Be sure to view the accompanying tutorial for more information on the concept of authority.

End of Evaluating Information Video Transcript (Part 1)

Evaluating Information Video (Part 2)

Expand your understanding of the concept of authority and its importance in academic research in this 6:18 minute tutorial created by Bethany Mickel.

Evaluating Information Video Transcript (Part 2)

[IMAGE of tools in the Madison Research Essentials Toolkit]

Narrator: Welcome back once again to the Madison Research Essentials Toolkit. In this tutorial, we will build upon our understanding of the concept of authority and examine how authority is both CONSTRUCTED and CONTEXTUAL.

[IMAGE of the word ‘authority’ with other words surrounding it]

Narrator: As we learned in the previous tutorial, authority is an important element when determining whether or not a resource is credible or trustworthy.

[IMAGE of road sign with different destinations and mileage]

Narrator: We can evaluate authoritative work in a variety of different ways including where it came from…

[IMAGE of audience at a movie theatre]

Narrator: …who it was created for…

[IMAGE of a younger female scientist and an older male scientist examining a slide of bacteria]

Narrator: …and how it is meant to be used.

[IMAGE of an open suitcase with clothes inside]

Narrator: For example, if you were packing clothes for a weekend trip, you might visit the Weather Channel’s website for forecast information for your destination.

[IMAGE of a weather radar screen and a hand with a pencil pointing at a weather formation]

Narrator: However, if you were writing a scholarly paper on weather trends over the last two decades, you would want to rely on a more authoritative source. A scholar within the field of meteorology would offer far more authoritative information fit for your academic purposes.

[TEXT with checkmark IMAGES next to each line]

Narrator: Determining the context in which we will use the information is important. We might ask ourselves the following questions:

[ZOOM in to TEXT] Is the author or creator of a work authoritative based on his or her personal experiences or academic credentials?

[ZOOM in to TEXT] Is the research authoritative based on clear descriptions of the research methods that were used?

[ZOOM in to TEXT] Is the research authoritative due to the process of evaluation used before it is published?

[IMAGE of Facebook logo]

Narrator: Let’s consider what it means to be an authority by considering the social media site Facebook.

[IMAGE of a Facebook page]

Narrator: You might check your newsfeed multiple times a day, upload photos, video, comment on others’ postings and consider yourself an ‘expert’ due to your personal experience. If you were writing a paper on, say, the social constructs of Facebook, you would not need to do any formal research, right?

[IMAGE of a portion of the journal article with the TEXT Author Affiliations outlined in red]

Narrator: Wrong! Although your personal experience makes you knowledgeable, there are individuals who have studied and spent significant time researching social media and are considered to be experts due to the credentialing process. Let’s take a look at this article entitled “An Exploratory Study of College Students’ Fanning Behavior on Facebook.” [ZOOM to TEXT of author’s affiliation] When we examine the authors, we can see that they are affiliated with the Department of Design and Merchandising in the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University. These individuals’ credentials would make them authoritative.

[IMAGE of two men shaking hands while one is presenting the other with a diploma or degree]

Narrator: Therefore, the author or creator of a work is considered authoritative based on academic credentialing. In a University or academic setting, credentials count. The authority that you have is not determined by you; rather, it is determined by the authority that you have constructed or built and the fact that others understand your credentials.

[IMAGE of a house that is under construction]

Narrator: We would consider this authority as constructed since it is built on a foundation of knowledge that was gained through academic endeavor and the fact that others acknowledge your credentials.

[IMAGE of two science beakers with contents being poured into one]

Narrator: Within each discipline, there are also certain methods and procedures that are used to complete tasks that ensure reliability and consistent results.

[IMAGE a part of a journal article with the TEXT ‘methods’ featured in a red box]

Narrator: A researcher within the field of genetics, for instance, will be considered more authoritative if he or she lists the various research methods (ZOOM) that were used when conducting an experiment.

[IMAGE of mountains reflected in a lake]

Narrator: Solid research should be able to be copied or replicated; therefore, research becomes authoritative when clear descriptions of the research methods used are provided.

[IMAGE of eyeglasses resting on top of a book]

Narrator: Finally, one way that the authority of a work is assured is through a process called peer review.

[TEXT of the word ‘peer’ with boxes listing TEXT reading ‘similar background, similar social status, and similar education]

Narrator: Let’s begin by defining what a peer is. A peer is someone who has a similar background, social, or educational status.

[IMAGE of three college-aged females walking and smiling]

Narrator: Your friends are your social peers, however, as you advance within your selected major, your academic peers will change.

[IMAGE of college-aged male sitting in the library stacks and reading a book]

Narrator: For example, if you are a Psychology major, your History and Business friends will no longer be your academic peers—even though they are still your social peers—since they are advancing their knowledge in different academic disciplines.

[TEXT of the word ‘peer review’ with boxes listing: ‘what are your academic credentials?’ AND ‘are your research methods sound?]

Narrator: The process of peer review examines both your academic credentialing and the soundness of your research methodology. In short, peer review is a process by which other people—or peers—within similar education and discipline-specific background examine and review what you have researched and written to verify that you have used sound research methods.

[IMAGE of magnifying glass examining text on a page]

Narrator: Peer reviewers help to raise questions or points in need of clarification that are similar to questions you might encounter is you were presenting your research—in person—to an audience of professionals within your field of study.

[IMAGE ‘Social Journal of Psychology on the left side of the page with the TEXT break out box ‘peer reviewed’ and an IMAGE of ‘Time’ magazine with Barack Obama on the cover and the break out box TEXT ‘NOT peer reviewed’]

Narrator: An article within, say, The Journal of Social Psychology would undergo the peer review process while and article in Time would not.

[IMAGE of conference table and chairs]

Narrator: Whether or not you need peer reviewed resources depends on the purpose and intended audience of your research.

[IMAGE of James Madison painting]

Narrator: For example, if you were gathering general background information on James Madison’s life such as the years of his presidency, you would not necessarily need to reply on peer-reviewed resources.

[IMAGE of the TEXT of the United States Constitution]

Narrator: However, if you are examining how Madison’s publication of The Federalist Essays impacted the ratification of the Constitution from a legal perspective, you would rely on peer reviewed material. In this case, we would be examining authority in terms of context.

[TEXT of the word ‘authority’ with separate boxes listing: ‘constructed, contextual, credentialing process, sound research methodology, peer review process’]

Narrator: We now know that authority is both constructed and contextual in that there is a credentialing process, a reliance on sound research methodology, and a peer review process that is required prior to publication in scholarly journals.

[IMAGE of JMU Libraries’ homepage with ‘Ask the Library’ IMAGE circled in red]

Narrator: This tutorial should have provided you with some important aspects to consider when evaluating information. Do you still have questions? Feel free to use the Ask the Library [ZOOM to image of librarians and ‘Ask the Library’ link circled in red] link on the library homepage to connect with a librarian. We are here to help. Be sure to view the accompanying tutorial for more information on the concept of authority.

End of Evaluating Information Video Transcript (Part 2)