Here are some critera that are commonly used to evaluate sources (online in particular):
- Is the information in this source relevant to the topic?
- Who is the author, creator, or publisher of the source? An author can be a person, or an organization such as a business, an educational institution, or a government agency.
- Is the author affiliated with an organization or institution, and is the name of the institution stated and the relationship clearly defined?
- Is the author/creator/publisher an expert in the field? What are the author's qualifications and credentials? Can the author's credentials be verified through other sources?
- Is there contact information for the author in the source? If you have trouble finding an author/creator listed on a website, you probably should not rely on information from that website. That goes double for a scholarly article.
- Always use a combination of sources to verify the accuracy of new information.
- Can you contact the author?
- Is the information reliable? What research methods are used and is the methodology explained in detail?
- Are there sources and references and are sources and references cited correctly?
- Is there an editor or a peer-review process?
- Check the top level domain name of the of the website (.com, .edu, .gov, etc.) for clues as to the focus of the website. Where was the article published, scholarly journal, popular magazine, established newspaper, trade magazine, etc.?
- What is the goal of the website or publication (commercial, educational, governmental, informational, etc.)? Who is the audience, who was it written for?
- Is the website or publication associated with a particular group or organization with a particular agenda?
- Is the information presented objectively or is there a bias? Does it contain facts or opinions? Verify facts with other sources. Are there citations and references for other sources?
- Is there advertising on the website and is it contained to a particular section of the site? Are there sponsored links on the website?
- Who funded the research? What is the funder's interest in the outcome of the research?
- How current is the material being presented? Are there any dates on the paper or website? When was it created? When was it last updated or edited? Have any more recently published papers cited the source you're looking at and do they agree?
- Is the information on the page kept up-to-date? Who is responsible for maintaining information on the website? Are the links current?
- Is information on the website freely available or is a subscription, registration, payment, etc. required?
- Is the site easy to navigate?
- How relevant and useful is the information presented? Are the links or references also relevant?
- Is the website or article an academic, scholarly, commercial, informational, or government site?
- Does the source include information not found elsewhere? Are there references? Is the information cited correctly? How in-depth is the information?
- Is the source of information stable?
- Is there contact information available? Does it still work?
- Adapted from Evaluating Online Information Brandeis Research Guide