To look at information critically means you approach it like a “critic”.

You must question, analyse and contextualize your sources in order to make a decision about their value and appropriateness. Several factors or “critical lenses” can be used to assess information:

Currency: When was the information published or posted? Has the information been revised or updated? Is the information current or out of date for your topic? Are the links functional?

Relevance: Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question? Who is the intended audience? Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use? Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor? Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given? What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic? Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address? Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? For examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network).

Accuracy: Where does the information come from? Is the information supported by evidence? Has the information been reviewed or refereed? Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge? Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion? Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: What is the purpose of the information? To inform? Teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade? Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear? Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

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