Answered By: Jennifer Harris
Last Updated: Nov 09, 2015     Views: 129

Evaluating a source by purpose & objectivity means that you are asking: Is there bias or a slant given to the information provided?

When considering the purpose & objectivity of a source, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What point of view does the author represent? Is the source arguing for or against something? Does the source contain mostly factual information or is it opinion-based?
  • Is the source associated with an organization or institution that is known for promoting a certain point of view or opinion?
  • What appears to be the purpose of the information provided -- to inform, teach, sell, entertain, provide public services, or persuade?

Where should you look to determine the purpose & objectivity of a source?

Print & Database Sources Websites
  • Read the abstract, summary, or table of contents for the source
  • Scan the full text of the source - look for facts, statistics, advertisements, etc.
  • Examine or look up the author's and publisher's affiliations
  • Examine or look up other works written or published by the author/publisher
  • Read the abstract, summary, or table of contents for the source (if available)
  • Scan the full text of the source - look for facts, statistics, advertisements, etc.
  • Examine or look up website's or author's affiliations
  • Examine or look up other works written or published by the author/website
  • Examine the domain extension (i.e. .com, .edu)

What to avoid:

  • Sources that are primarily opinion-based, with few facts or statistics (unless seeking biased sources)
  • Sources that are primarily concerned with selling a product (unless seeking biased sources)
  • Sources with affiliations known for promoting a certain viewpoint (unless seeking biased sources)

Note: It's okay to use information from sources that contain strong arguments or opinions, but it's always a good idea to acknowledge the author's view.

EXAMPLES QUESTIONS TO ASK
BeefNutrition.org Who sponsors this web site? Does it promote an agenda or specific viewpoint?
Melatonin.com Is this site purely informational, or is it trying to sell a product (advertising)?
Monsanto - Biotechnology Who sponsors this web site? Does it promote an agenda or specific viewpoint?

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