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Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the important considerations for evaluating internet sources in sociological research.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on evaluating sources. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

Today we're looking at evaluating sources. More specifically, though, not many of us end up going to the library anymore to look stuff up. We have so much at our fingertips using the internet and using computers. So specifically, today we're looking at evaluating internet sources. And I'm going to give you what I think are the three most important things you'd look for when you're looking at websites to decide whether or not this is really a website you should be trusting or how much you should trust it as you look at it.

First thing we want to look at is authority. Authority is having some sort of recognized knowledge or expertise in a field or on a specific topic. So let's say you're looking up green tea. You want to find out if drinking green tea is good or bad for you. And you find these two websites. And one website is telling us about the dangers of green tea, and the other one is telling us about the benefits of green tea.

Now, if we're looking at authority here, Jackie Johnson is the creator of this "Dangerous Tea," and you go around and you look and you can't really find out much about her. She doesn't really have any recognized authority in the area of green tea. But on the other side, "The Benefits of Green Tea," well, that's written by Dr. Mate. So Dr. Mate it looks like is a doctor and actually has some expertise in tea. So which one would be the stronger source to use looking at authority? You guessed it. "The Benefits of Tea" website is probably going to be a stronger site to use based on authority.

Now, let's look for bias. Bias is showing prejudice for or against a certain side or for a certain argument. So we're digging around on these websites and we find out that "Dangers of Tea" is written by Jackie Johnson, which we knew. And she's been working independently as a holistic healer since 1994. OK, I don't see any biases right away from that.

And then you look on the other website and you see Dr. Mate is an employee of the Go Big Beverage Company and this page is owned and operated by the makers of Gigi's Green Tea. Now, does that mean that the website on the right, "The Benefits of Tea," is totally bad? No, but there could be some bias there. There could be prejudice toward saying green tea is good because they're selling a product which includes green tea.

So which do you think would be the stronger one when we're looking at bias? Correct. So "Dangers of Tea" would be the stronger one to look at when we're looking at bias. And "Benefits of Tea" actually has more bias. So that is the weaker one to use in this case.

Now let's look at citations. Citations or basically how you prove where you learned or where you got this information from. So we're going back and we're actually on that first page again, and we see that Jackie Johnson-- oh, look, there's those little ones and twos. Citations can look a lot of different ways. There's different formats-- MLA, CLA, Chicago style. You've probably seen many of these or used them in other classes or as you've done research for stuff.

On the other hand, Dr. Mate doesn't have any citations. There's no way to prove where he's getting his information from. So what do we think? Yep, "Dangers of Tea" would actually be stronger for citations usage than "Benefits of Tea" by Dr. Mate.

So today's takeaway message-- I gave you what I think are the three most important things to look for when you're looking at electronic sources-- authority, bias, and citations. So you want to find a source that has good authority-- so something that is recognized and has some official expertise in whatever you're looking at. And you also want to look for bias. So you want to avoid a website that has bias or prejudiced for or against a particular side.

Lastly, you want to look for citations. You want to see if there's an official connection to where this author learned their knowledge from. Where did they get this information from? Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work, and hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

Having recognized and official expertise about something, or in some field.


Having a prejudice for or against a particular side.


Stating where you got your knowledge and facts.