Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Communication Studies

Sources for research in Communication Studies (general communication, journalism, and public relations)

Credibility

Evaluating Information

Credibility refers to the trustworthiness of the information. If the evidence you use is false, than any argument you make will also be false. 

Tips for finding good sources:

  • Credibility is not a yes-no proposition. It is a spectrum involving the relevancy of the information, the quality of evidence, the credibility of the author, and the purpose of the resource. The key is finding enough resources that you can compensate for any of the flaws in other resources. 
  • Look up the credentials of the author. Are they knowledgeable on the subject?
  • Identify the purpose/argument of the resource from the onset, then ask yourself how that influences the evidence presented, and if the argument is sound. 
  • Give yourself time. If you wait till the last minute, you don't have enough time to evaluate/find your sources.

Methods for Evaluating

When looking at an information source, try asking yourself the Five W's

  • Who? Who wrote this? Can you even tell? Are they an authority in this topic? Credentials are important, but first-hand accounts are also important. Most importantly, who stands to benefit if you believe this source?
  • What? What kind of resource is this? Is it an advertisement? Newspaper article? Scholarly research article? Also, what kind of information does it present? Does the content match up with what you already know about this topic? Are there a bunch of advertisements, either related or unrelated to the topic of the article?
  • When? How up to date is the information? And how soon after the event was this published? (We've all seen false reports and misinformation happen shortly after major events like school shootings.) Also, how up to date do you need the information to be? Looking for reviews of classic movies that came out shortly after the cinematic debut versus critical acclaim that came years later can make a big difference.
  • Where? Country of origin?  How different is the information provided by CNN versus BBC versus Al-Jazeera? Also, where is this information in relation to the structure of the website? Is it on the front page? Is it buried?
  • Why? What's the purpose of the source? Is it trying to sell you something? Convince you of something? Also, why are you looking at this source? Entertainment? Medical research? Academic need?

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining that this is one you will use?
  • Is this source appropriate for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    • examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? To inform? Teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10=best possible) you can give each site a grade on a 50 point scale for how high quality it is!

45 - 50 Excellent | 40 - 44 Good | 35 - 39 Average | 30 - 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 - Unacceptable

Avoid Fake News

Evaluating News

Fake News

Be aware of your own biases, look at the credentials for the author, fact check. 

Evaluating Websites

How to Evaluate a Website Flowchart

Types of Websites

Facts About Websites

Commercial websites (.com)  may contain useful preliminary information, product information, and links to other websites.  Remember that commercial sites are attempting to sell a product; therefore, the information may be biased.

Educational websites (.edu)  are maintained by universities or other educational institutions.  They are created with the idea of providing information that will be helpful for students and faculty.  Usually, the webmaster has previewed the information and the links included.  However, you should always evaluate these pages critically before using them.  Be aware that student assignments and projects may be located on .edu sites.

Government websites (.gov) are provided by all departments of the Federal government.  They contain a wealth of information on a wide variety of subjects.  Government sites are also excellent sources of statistical information that is often easier to find electronically.  Standard evaluation criteria should still apply.

Organizational websites (.org)  are sponsored by non-profit entities.  Most have good information and contain excellent links.  Remember to evaluate each page on its own merits.  Because many organizations have their own agendas, information from these sites may also be biased.

Country and state websites (example: .us or .ks)  may have a two-letter domain name.  These sites may have very useful information.  However, all information should be evaluated.

Other domain names may be located in web addresses.  Remember to use the same criteria to evaluate all sites.