Evaluating Sources: Information Need and Context

Information Need and Context

Evaluation: Information need and context

Information resources reflect their creators' expertise and credibility, and they are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which information will be used. The authority that you decide to give a source may depend on who the author is, the authors' purpose in creating the source, the context in which the source was created, and how you plan to use source to inform your research.

  • Information need: How you intend to use a source will help you determine the kind of authority and/or credibility you give a source.
  • Information source context: Where it came from, its audience, format, and how it is used--help determine its authority and appropriateness.

Different perspectives:

Keep in mind that sometimes the most authoritative voices in a given community are not the loudest or those voices are missing altogether. When you are doing research, try to look for varying perspectives and voices that may be marginalized or even absent from mainstream sources of authority. This is important so that you can consider your research topic or question from multiple angles ("Question Authority" New Literacies Alliance, 2016).

Next time you find a source, think about who can publish on the specific topic you are researching. Whose voice might included or excluded?

How do you decide who to trust?

Information Timeline

The information timeline chart below can help you determine which types of sources to look for based on the type and depth of information you need: Once you know which type of sources you want to look for, you can more efficiently decide where you need to look.

As an event develops, information about it is generated and disseminated. The first reports show up on the Internet, television, and radio.  First reports usually focus on the quick facts: who, what, where.  As time passes, information filters through different types of resources, with the level of coverage increasing and becoming much more detailed and analytical.