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PSPL 101 - Introduction to American Government - Wells

This guide has been created to help with your work for Professor Wells' PSPL 101 class.

Credible? Reliable?

Use these tips to evaluate information you find on the Internet, particularly when trying to determine a bias or opinion.

Evaluating Websites

Check out these two short videos, which provide tips on how to evaluate web sites, to see if they are quality resources for your research project.

Look up the owner of a website

    Evaluating Websites

Credibility

  • Who is the author or organization responsible for the information?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Are the expert and the webmaster the same person?

Accuracy

  • Are references included that verify the information’s source?
  • Is the information consistent with other sources on the topic?
  • Are there mistakes in spelling and word usage?

Fact vs. Opinion

  • Is more than one viewpoint or opinion expressed?
  • Is the information presented as fact or opinion?
  • Is the site’s purpose to inform? To entertain? To explain? To advocate a cause? To sell a product?
  • Does the author use emotionally charged language?

Timeliness

  • When was the site’s last update?
  • When was the information compiled originally?
  • Is the information still valid or is it out of date?

Relevance

  • Is the information directed toward a general or specialized audience?
  • Is the information comprehensive enough for your needs? Specific enough? Too detailed? Too vague?
  • Does the information cover the correct period of time for your topic? The correct geographical area?

Rhetorical Triangle

Rhetorical Triangle: Author; Audience; Purpose

Evaluating Sources with the Rhetorical Triangle

Evaluating Sources

When you read a text, start asking three questions:

  • Who is the author of the text?

  • Who is the intended audience for the text?

  • What is the purpose of the text?

Author: When you read a text, try to find out as much about the author as you possibly can:

  • Who is the author?

  • What do you know about the author?

  • Is he/she trustworthy? Why?

  • What else has he/she written on the subject?  

When you write your own papers, you will need to convince your reader about your own trustworthiness and credibility the same way that you need to satisfy your own curiosity about the author of a text you read.

Audience: There are many different types of audiences. When you read a text, it is important to know who the intended audience is. When you write a text, it is integral to know who your readers are. Identify the audience based on the following questions:  

  • Who is the target audience?

  • What is the audience’s interest in the subject?

  • What does the audience know about the subject?

  • How would the audience feel about the subject?

Purpose: When reading, think of the specific purpose as to why the author is writing it. Writers can have numerous purposes which change from situation to situation and audience to audience. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the writer’s purpose for writing the article?

  • What specific information is the writer conveying?

  • Is the writer trying to convince you of something?

  • Is the writer trying to sell something?

*Adapted from the University Writing Program Northern Arizona University

Congressman Scott Perry, PA-4

Congressman Scott Perry