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WRTG 103 EAPP Critical Reading, Reasoning & Writing (Sloan)

Using Question Words (i.e., Five Ws and How) to Evaluate Sources

Who?

Who developed, wrote, and published the content?

Author

  • Was the content created by an individual or an organization?
  • What is the author's profession and how does that indicate expertise?
  • What does the author value with regards to this topic?
  • Does the author stand to benefit from their position?

Publisher

  • Are you familiar with the publisher or larger source (e.g., New York Times)? Are they considered trustworthy?
  • Does the publisher have a stated code of ethics?
  • What are their publishing policies (if known)?

What?

What are some of the characteristics of this source?

  • Was the source created for a specific audience or group of individuals?
  • Is this an academic source that has cited references and uses disciplinary jargon?
  • Is this a practical source meant for a layperson?
  • Was the information created based on research, first-hand experience, or opinion?
  • Is there anything about the information that strikes you as odd, incorrect, or biased?

When?

When (and it what context) was the information created or last updated?

  • Is the topic still changing?
  • How current should the information be for this topic?
  • Has anything important happened recently that might change the accuracy of the information?

Where?

Where did the author get their information?

  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Does the author reference other sources or include a bibliography?
  • Can you verify the information using other sources?

Why?

Why does this source exist?

  • Is the author trying to educate or inform?
  • Is the author trying to state their opinion or sell something?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Does the author present more than one viewpoint or is the information one-sided?

How?

How can you use this source to help your research?

  • Does it relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Does it provide background information?
  • Does it support other research that you’ve found on this topic?
  • Does it provide an argument, framework, or theory that you can use for your own research?
  • Does it present new information that you can incorporate into your research?

What do domain suffixes mean?

The end of a URL can provide valuable information about the nature of a website. Here are some of the most common suffixes in the United States and what they represent. Other countries may have their own variation on these suffixes (e.g., the United Kingdom uses co.uk instead of .com)

Domain suffix What it stands for Who can get one Example
.com Commercial

Anyone – typically businesses, blogs, personal websites

This is the most popular top-level domain.

democratandchronicle.com

visitrochester.com

innerloopblog.com
(fake news site)

.edu Educational

U.S.-based postsecondary institutions with institutional accreditation from an institutional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (more info).

(Note: Many universities allow faculty and students to maintain their own personal websites using the university's .edu domain.  Think critically before using content from a .edu website)

rochester.edu

harvard.edu

brookings.edu

.gov Government U.S.-based government and public sector organizations including federal, state, local, or territorial government entity; publicly controlled entity; or tribal government recognized by the federal government or a state government (more info).

monroecounty.gov

cityofrochester.gov

ny.gov

.org Organization Anyone – typically nonprofit websites including charitable, artistic, scientific, personal, educational, social, cultural and religious sites

un.org

hrw.org

nber.org

Rochester Area Newspapers