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OSH 499w

This guide provides library-related information to help students succeed in Professor Bardsley's OSH4 99w course.

Evaluating Resources

 

Evaluate sources using these criteria:

Authority - What level of credibility does the author hold?
Bias - What is the author's purpose in providing the information?
Accuracy - Are you able to cross-check facts?
Currency - Is this the most up-to-date information available?
Content Scope - Is the breadth and depth of the information appropriate for your assignment?

 

Don't judge a website by the domain extension

Domain extensions (.com, .org, .edu, etc.) tell you something about websites, but they don't reflect the reliability of information.

Authority

Authority is a primary consideration when evaluating resources. Authority Is constructed and contextual.

Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.

Source: Association of College and Research Libraries

Authority can be a complicated and divisive concept. The peer-review process isn't perfect, but it is rigorous. Peer-reviewed materials hold the level of authority that most often suits the needs of your scholarly work as a student. 

Your instructors may use the terms: peer-reviewed materials, scholarly materials, or refereed materials. These terms are used interchangeably. They all mean the same thing. 

Now that you've found material, used the criteria to evaluate the material, and made sure that the information is peer-reviewed, there's one last consideration. Can you ethically use this information in a way that complies with copyright law? Thanks to the Fair Use Doctrine, as a student, you can use most information sources for your assignments as long as you cite your sources carefully. 

There are four factors that help you to determine whether your use of information is allowable under the Fair Use Doctrine:

  1. Purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Refer to The U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Index to learn more about each of these considerations.

 

Podcasts deserve a special mention in a discussion of information evaluation. Podcasts are among the most influential sources of information. According to the PEW Research Center, two out of three people between the ages of 18-29 listen to podcasts. A third of podcast listeners have implemented a lifestyle change based on information that they heard on a podcast. Most podcast listeners report that they've read a book or listened to music or seen a movie as a result of hearing about it on a podcast.

The concern is that 87% of podcast listeners believe that the information in podcasts is true most of the time. Podcasts aren't vetted in the same way that peer-reviewed information is vetted. When determining whether or not you should use information from a podcast for your scholarly work, think critically about the information. Use the criteria for evaluation and work closely with your course instructor.