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Library Home » Articles & Guides » The Four Ws of Evaluating Information Sources: Education

The Four Ws of Evaluating Information Sources: Education

Who:Who is the author or company responsible for the content?

Authors should have education or experience related to the subject of the source.

Educational institutions, organizations, or companies providing information are credible if they have a respected reputation in the field of education. If you are unsure of an institution, organization, or company's reputation, check to see what curriculum, textbooks, or studies they have published about educational topics.

Sometimes you can learn about the author or institution in the source you are reading.

  • This information is often available at the beginning or end of a book, article, or Web page.
  • Search the Library Catalog, MOBIUS, or periodical indexes listed on Articles & Guides to find books or articles written by the author or organization on the same subject.
Positive Examples:  

The Educator's Reference Desk
(Web Page)
"The Educator's Reference Desk builds on over a quarter century of experience providing high-quality resources and services to the education community. From the Information Institute of Syracuse, the people who created AskERIC, the Gateway to Educational Materials, and the Virtual Reference Desk, the Educator's Reference Desk brings you the resources you have come to depend on. 2,000+ lesson plans, 3,000+ links to online education information, and 200+ question archive responses.

Negative Examples:

The LessonPlansPage
(Web page)
Kyle Austin Yamnitz, whose resume details his education and experience in the field of education, has created this site that includes lesson plans. Although Yamnitz has a degree in elementary education, he solicits lesson plans from site visitors and does not describe any selection criteria for inclusion of these lesson plans.

What references or documentation are provided?

A bibliography, reference list, or works cited should be included. A list of sources "For More Information" or "For Further Information" is not adequate--these only point the reader to additional sources of information rather than the sources used to create the text he or she is currently reading.

Positive Examples:  

Answering the Challenge of a Changing World: Strengthening Education for the 21st Century (Web Page)
This report includes endnotes, as well as a number of references that are provided throughout the text of the report.

Negative Examples:  

New Students - New Learning Styles
(Web Page)
This article includes several statistics and does not provide documentation for the source of the statistics.

Does Texas Make the Grade (Periodical Article-Scroll down to view the article)
There are no references to validate the opinions expressed in this article.

How old is the information?

The age of the information should be appropriate for the topic.

Current information and statistics should be updated within the past year.

Historical sources do not need to be updated unless new data is discovered.

Positive Example:

Remarks by Secretary Spellings at No Child Left Behind Summit
(Web Page)
The April 27, 2006 date of this speech makes it an appropriate resource for researching current educational issues.

Negative Example:

NAEP 1992 Trends in Academic Progress. Achievement of U.S. Students in Science, 1969 to 1992 - Mathematics, 1973 to 1992 - Reading, 1971 to 1992 - Writing, 1984 to 1992.(Web Page)
This report of education trends in 1992 includes information that is too dated to use for current reports on the current state of education.


Why was the information published?

Question the reliability of information if the author or sponsor attempts to convince readers to:
  • adopt a point-of-view.
  • purchase a product or spend money.
  • financially support a cause.
Positive Example:  

Promoting Social and Emotional Competency through Teacher/Counselor Collaboration
(Periodical Article)
This article promotes the implementation of teacher/counselor collaboration in teaching social and emotional skills in the public schools. The focus of the research described is on teachers' and counselors' attitudes toward collaboration in this area. Although the author advocates for expansion of this type of collaboration, the research is not biased.

Negative Example:

Showdown at Gender Gap
(Periodical Article-Scroll down to view the article)
The author of this article is strongly opposed to eliminating questions on the SAT that female students consistently miss. She discusses research which shows that female students consistently miss certain questions that are correctly answered by their male counterparts. Her strong comments against the integrity of the test indicate that she may hold biased opinions.
The Four Ws of Evaluating Information Sources: Education
Evaluate Journal Articles:

Strengths-Based Education: Probing Its Limits

Florida Grows a Lemon

Nature, Not Books: Scientists and the Origins of the Nature-Study Movement in the 1890s

An IT Evolution in the ClassroomReturn to Top
Evaluate Web Pages:

Assessing Community Needs for Child Care

Guidelines for Computer-Assisted Reading Instruction
National Science Education Standards

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All quoted material is from the respective source.

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