Questions to Ask about Electronic Sources
- Is the source relevant to your research project? Is it related to your argumentative claim?
- Who is the author of your source? If it is a Web page, is any information provided about the author? Is an electronic mail address provided so that you can contact the author? If it is a post to a newsgroup or mailing list, what can you tell from the author's electronic mail address and signature file, if one is provided?
- Are the sources of information provided on the Web site, newsgroup, or mailing list provided? Is the information consistent with the information found in print sources, other Web sites, newsgroups, or mailing lists?
- If you're evaluating a Web site that is sponsored by an organization, government agency, or corporation, what do you know about the sponsor? Is a bias clearly evident in the material provided on the site? Is this a commercial site that is trying to sell a product or service? Is this a site that pushes a particular issue or political agenda?
- If you are evaluating posts on a newsgroup or mailing list, what do you know about the purpose of the newsgroup or list? Is a FAQ (frequently asked questions) file available? Is it clear from the posts whether there is a general bias among members of the newsgroup or list?
- How specialized is the information in the source? Does the source provide a broad overview of an issue? Does it focus on a narrow topic using highly specialized jargon? Will your audience be able to understand key terms from the source? Do you understand the key ideas in the source?
- Can you tell when a Web site was published? Can you determine whether it has been updated recently? Is the information published on the site current or out of date?
- If you are visiting a Web site, how effectively is the site designed? How "user friendly" is it? Are its links helpful? What effects do design components such as text-layout, graphics, flash and audio/video have on the message?