Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Evaluating Sources--basic principles

I've been helping the librarian at my children's school do some curriculum development on research and evaluating sources for 3-6 graders. It has kind of brought me back to basics in thinking about how to evaluate what we find on the internet. I think we need to closely evaluate the genealogy sources we find on the net. And maybe some of these basic principles will help. So here is a little of my librarian slant:

Basically you can ask yourself: Who, What, Where, When and Why.

1)Who. Ask yourself who is the author? Does he/she give credentials or tell why his/her experience qualifies him/her to write (or compile) the information?

2)What. What is the content? Is it reliable? (This is a major one for genealogists.) Have you found other sources that confirm the information? Are there books or magazines that agree with this site's facts?

3)Where. Where did you find the information? What is the authority of the source? What is the domain of the website (.com, .org .edu) Is that domain appropriate to the information that you found? Is this information a primary or secondary source?

4)When. When was it written? Is the information up to date? Does this information need to be current? When was the website last updated or the information published?

5)Why. Ask yourself why was it written? What is the bias of author? Is the purpose to give information? Is the purpose to sell something? Is the purpose to entertain? Is the purpose to promote an idea?

6)How. How does it look? Is it professionally presented? Did the author use correct spelling and grammar in their writing? Is it easy to read?

Final Evaluation: What is your general impression of this source?
And be sure to cite your source using the appropriate format.

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