info eval comm 390

Evaluating Information

We evaluate information in three main areas:

  1. Visual: surface level
  2. Quality: just below the surface
  3. Ethos: deep dive

Whether you know it or not, you engage in these levels of information pretty frequently -- every time you meet a new person, read something on the internet, or any other time you encounter a piece of new information.

Let’s use the analogy of water sports to see how we can apply the Visual Quality Ethos method of information evaluation:

Visual: Surface-level

What do you see, at a glance?

  • Title - does it contain emotional cues?
  • Author or Sources (organization) - is a name or organization mentioned?Grammar/Spelling - are there any errors?
  • General topic
  • Date - when was it published, update times listed, date relevance?
  • URL - does the URL have any useful information?

Quality: Just below the surface

This level of evaluation is about determining credibility, basic purpose, content. This is the minimum level of evaluation for any source you want to use in college, whether it is for a class discussion, or for a more formal assignment.

  • Authority/Credentials - Do they have the “right to write” about the topic? Credentials could mean education or experience - give examples of both.
  • References Listed - Where is the author/org getting their information?
  • Verify information with another source?
    • Do a quick Google search. Can you find this information easily?

Ethos: Deep dive

Ethos in this case is referring to its “ethical appeal” -- what are they trying to convince you of, and why? When we try to evaluate the ethos of a source, we need to dig really deep and ask “big” questions.

  • What is the purpose?
  • Does it make you feel anything (note emotions while reading)?
  • Where does the funding come from?
  • Is there bias (one side favored over the other, especially in an unfair way)? Is only one side of the topic presented?