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Civic Communication & Media: Starting Point

Reference Works

Resources for Civic Communication & Media

How to Evaluate Resources (Print & Electronic)


Italics indicates special criteria for Internet resources

1. Reason

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is scope or purpose specifically stated? Do the contents match the stated scope?
  • Is the point of view stated? Is there a particular agenda that is being pushed?
  • Does it have an established reputation? If so, consider what kind of reputation it represents?
  • What is the host's motivation for providing the information on the Web?
    (Advertising for profit, part of agency's mission, educational purposes, reporting original research, publicizing a particular agenda)
  • What information can be gained about the site domain code of the host address?
    • .com = commercial source
    • .gov = government agency
    • .org = non-profit organization
    • .net = consortium (profit or non-profit)
    • .edu = educational institution

2. Readability

  • Is the text well written? Is it written in the language of the discipline or for a general audience?
  • Does the source have features, such as charts, illustrations, or a bibliography, that will be helpful?
  • Is the information needed to cite the material easily found?
  • Is there a lot of information available or is the information it provides limited?
  • Are links to other Web resources labeled clearly?

3. Reliability

  • Is objectivity a factor?
  • Who is the author?
  • Does the author provide credentials demonstrating expertise or knowledge of the subject?
  • Is the publisher reputable?
  • Does the resource contain grammatical, spelling or typographical errors?
  • Is there any contact information provided?
  • Are facts, such as statistics, accurate, current, and verifiable? Are sources of information cited?
  • What sources or methods did the author use to gather the information?
  • Is the method of obtaining data accurate and dependable?
  • Is it refereed/peer-reviewed or did just a staff editor review it? Peer-review means a scholar or researcher in the related field has reviewed it before publication.
  • How frequently is the resource updated?
  • Are the links to other resources current? And is the page finished or still under construction?

4. References

  • Does the author list where they get their information from
    (e.g. footnotes, bibliography, or reference list)? 
  • Are there many sources listed?
  • Are the author's sources reliable?
  • Can you follow their listed sources to obtain the original information sources?

Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209