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Evaluating Sources

Information Consumers

You are an information consumer. Be smart about what you consume. 

You are undoubtedly consuming an enormous amount of information every day. Between emails, messages, alerts, social media, news feeds, videos, textbooks, and articles - we are inundated with an ever growing body of information. How do we sort through these murky waters? How do we know what's factual? This guide is a starting point for the essential, constant work of information evaluation. 

Evaluation Basics

Question Everything!

The key to critical thinking is being able to ask the right questions. As humans, we tend to seek out information that confirms our own bias, beliefs, and interests. Search engines and social media reinforce this filter bubble with incredibly astute algorithms. If you've never heard of filter bubbles - check out this basic video that was way ahead of its time: 

 

To avoid an algorithmic filter bubble and our own bias bubble, always practice the

ABC's of Evaluation

Author

  • Who wrote this? - If you can't tell, that's a red flag!
  • What are their credentials? Do they have any expertise on this topic? Are they a journalist, a blogger, a politician? - Do a Google search on them if you can't tell. 
  • Who is the author affiliated with? Do they work for a news station? Are they affiliated with any political groups, companies, or non-profits? Is there a corporate sponsor for this article or study? 
  • Why did the author or organization write this? To inform? To sell something? To persuade? 

Bias (any unsubstantiated judgement, statement or evidence) 

  • How is the information presented? (Fact? Opinion?) 
  • Is there inflammatory language or unsubstantiated evidence? 
  • Can you find alternative sources that support the claims in this article? 
  • What voices and perspectives are MISSING from this article/video? Who is not represented? 

Credibility

  • Has anyone reviewed this information? Is it peer-reviewed? Does an editor or editorial board review the information? 
  • How up-to-date is the aricle? Is the information out-of-date? 
  • What was their research methodology? How did they collect their evidence - did they use survey tools? Interviews?