How to Evaluate Information: A Series of Questions
Who created this information?
Who are they?
What is their expertise or experience in this area?
What people and organizations are they affiliated with?
What's the name of the journal/magazine/newspaper/website that published this?
If a book, what publishing company?
What kind of review or editing process did this information go through before publication?
How was it edited?
From "self-published" to "peer reviewed", how much oversight did this information get?
Is the language (grammar, spelling, tone, etc) consistent? Are the author's arguments logical and coherent?
Is any major information (name of author, publication date) missing?
Does the author refer to other experts in the field, and are they cited in an appropriate manner?
Why was this information produced?
For science? For the furthering of human knowledge?
To inform the public or a particular audience?
To sell something?
To promote a particular point of view?
When was this information created and published?
New information is not always better. Sometimes "new" means "results have not yet been reproduced".
Depending on topic, particular time periods may be of interest. Articles from the period when scientists had just discovered nuclear fission would be very interesting.
Knowing when something was published can help you contextualize it within what was happening in the field and the world. In future, everything published between March 2020 and the end of the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be considered with that in mind.
What do you think?
You're bringing your own background, identity, and worldview to the table, as everyone must, whenever you absorb new information. How might those factors be shaping your reaction to this text?
Is this information going to be useful to you? Is it relevant to what you're trying to create or learn?
How to Read Scholarly Materials
Image from "How to Read a Book" by Paul N. Edwards.
Knowing how to read scholarly material, and understanding how these kinds of information tend to be structured, will be very helpful to you in your evaluative work.
Originally published in 1940, this book introduces the various levels of reading and how to achieve them—from elementary reading, through systematic skimming and inspectional reading, to speed reading. Readers will learn when and how to “judge a book by its cover,” and also how to X-ray it, read critically, and extract the author’s message from the text.