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US History - 10th Grade Spring Research Paper, Dr. Johnson: Source Evaluation!

Secondary Source Evaluation

When using websites pay particular attention to bias:

While it is unlikely that anything humans do is ever absolutely objective, it is important to establish that the information you intend to use is reasonably objective, or if it is not, to establish exactly what the point of view or bias is. There are times when information expressing a particular point of view or bias is useful, but you must use it consciously. You must know what the point of view is and why that point of view is important to your project.*

Virginia Tech Libraries. “Objectivity/point of View/bias | Information Skills Modules.” Accessed March 9, 2015.

Questions to ask about bias

When using sources on controversial topics its especially important to identify bias. When a document has bias it doesn't indicate its historical quality. The most important thing is to recognize the bias and anaylze with the viewpoints in mind. 

What is the likely bias (if any) of the author (individual or institution)?*

The purpose of the author in presenting ideas, opinions, or research may in part determine the usefulness of the source. Does the source show political, cultural or other bias? Are opposing points of view represented? Is this information verified in other sources? You may not be able to evaluate the objectivity of any single resource until you have looked at all your resources. Even biased sources can sometimes be used, if you are aware of the bias. 

Where to find in Books or Articles
The book jacket or back of book may have information that can help you determine bias; articles may have information at the beginning or end of the article. The credentials of the author may give you clues to bias. 

Where to Find on Web Sites
On Web sites, there may be an “about us,” or “about this site,” or “who we are” page that details what causes or ideas the site stands for. The Cato Institute states very clearly what their special interests are:


* Park, Kathryn. “5 Steps to Evaluation - Information Ethics - LibGuides at COM Library.” COM Library, Information for Life. Accessed March 9, 2015.

Evaluating Web Pages: Questions to Ask & Strategies for Getting the Answers*

An eight-point evaluation checklist from the UC Berkeley Library. 

  • What can the URL tell you? 
  • Who wrote the page? Is he, she, or the authoring institution a qualified authority? 
  • Is it dated? Current, timely? 
  • Is information cited authentic? 
  • Does the page have overall integrity and reliability as a source? 
  • What's the bias? 
  • Could the page or site be ironic, like a satire or a spoof? 
  • If you have questions or reservations, how can you satisfy them?

*UC Berkeley Library. “Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask.” Accessed March 9, 2015.

Domain Credibility*

The following top-level domains (TLD) can give you an idea of how reliable and accurate the information may be:

  • .com: The most popular worldwide, originally used by commercial entities, now a de facto standard on the Internet. Reliability and credibility not always guaranteed.
  • .edu: Only schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions can use this TLD, often indicating a reliable source of information. Watch out for websites created by students for research projects.
  • .gov: Only government organizations may use this TLD. Guaranteed to be both accurate and credible.
  • .org: Originally reserved for non-profit organizations (NPO) or non-government organizations (NGO), this TLD can be used by commercial entities. Most .org have an objective, watch out for points of bias.
  • .net: Primarily used by internet service providers. Mostly contain unreliable information.
  • Country codes, such as .us, .uk. and .de, are no longer tightly controlled and may be misused. Look at the country code, but also use the techniques in sections 2 and 4 below to see who published the web page.

Source: Boundless. “Evaluating Internet Material.” Boundless Communications. Boundless, 20 Jan. 2015. Retrieved 09 Mar. 2015 from

Where to Find Credentials for Web Sites

Web sites, like articles, may or may not present credentials. A common place for Web sites to list credentials is at the top or bottom of the page. You may have to go back to the home page of the site to see credentials. If credentials are not listed, that does not mean that the author has no expertise, but it does make it hard for you to evaluate whether he/she/they do and that means the sources may not be appropriate for college level research.


* Park, Kathryn. “5 Steps to Evaluation - Information Ethics - LibGuides at COM Library.” COM Library, Information for Life. Accessed March 9, 2015.