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Evaluating Information Quality

Page history last edited by ted.coopman@... 10 years, 3 months ago

Here are some tips for evaluating the quality and utility of information sources  

 Information Evaluation

All communication contains information and the quality and utility of that information depends on where you are standing.


“Objective” credibility is often a factor of culture, society, and power relations.


    •Depends on predisposition (you and audience).


    •Credibility can be broadly assessed by veracity (trust/knowledge) or ways of knowing (scientific/religious).

            Veracity: previous experience or referral

            Ways of knowing: experiential perspectives based on world view, gender, race, culture, ect.


Know what you are Consuming

Information organized is knowledge.


Data: facts verifiable by others.


Analysis: an investigation of the component parts of a whole and their relations making up that whole. How you arrange data and information to answer question(s).


Opinion: a personal belief or judgment that is NOT founded on proof or certainty.


Lay Theory: a world view, frame, how someone thinks about the world (how does something work or why?).


Academic Theory: a concept that, if true, could explain certain facts or phenomena. Verifiable through some sort of comparative regime.


Phenomena (plural of phenomenon): any state of process known through the senses (observable) rather than by intuition or reasoning.


Know your Audience

General audience = general sources


Specialized audience = specialized sources


Audience Bias: eg. distrust of govt. media, academe...


You and your audience or more inclined to believe things that reinforce your own bias and comes from someone like you/them!


Advantages and Disadvantages of Some Sources

Academic: well vetted, but often dated and constrained by discipline and tradition...


Mass Media: immediate/analysis, but constrained by space/time, advertising, “newsworthiness”...


Government: good data source, but analysis is constrained by politics...


Industry Press: inside, specialized, and timely information, but constrained by narrow focus and interests...


“Alternative” Press: unconstrained by convention, constrained by often narrow oppositional focus...


Blogs: insider expertise, but may have hidden bias - quality must be taken within context of its sphere.


Crowd Source: (Wikipedia) at best a good consensus of the facts and issues - at worse simplistic analysis of complex problems, may lack required expertise.


Hierarchy of Media: Higher quality information can often be found in publications geared toward political and business elites - decision-makers who need the best analysis. Some of these publication are The Economist, Foreign Policy, or the Business section of your local paper (where they hide the real news).


All sources are constrained by ideology and self-interest!

Media and The Truth



System/Regimes of Control

Often credibility is higher for systems with systematic internal/external controls.

    •Professional/member code


    •Independent oversight

    •Legal/regulatory restrictions

    •Transparency (process)


Caution: Systems can be self-protecting and self-delusional!



Red Flags

Any of these MAY indicate poor information quality.

    •Significant omissions (esp. contradictory info)

    •Factual errors (major or minor)

    •Misrepresentation of others material/research

    •Failure to identify sources, affiliations, funding, self.

    •Value laden language/extreme hyperbole

    •Decontextualized (no dates/lack of info)

    •Faulty Logic (guilt by association, unsupported  causality, drawing-the-line fallacy...)


When Researching...

    •Ensure you are using correct sources for your needs

    •Verify across diverse resources

    •Trace all data and documents to their source

    •Seek expert advice/referrals

    •Save and date copies


Credibility Analysis Checklist

1. Author: Who is the author?, What are his/her affiliation? What are her/his credentials (expertise), experience, reputation? What makes the author a good credible source?

2. Institution: What type of institution publishes the information. Is it commercial, educational, non-profit, or political? Does this have an impact on information quality?

3. Regimes of Control: What type of controls ensure quality? Maintaining a good reputation?  Laws? Federal/state regulations? Commercial constraints like pleasing advertisers?

4. Transparency: How was the information gathered? What is the editorial process? Who decides what the in the final product?

5. Channel Constraints: Space limitations such as limited pages, time limitations such as a 30 second story slot, medium limitations such as TV concentrating on visuals.




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