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Evaluating Sources: ASPECT Method

Guide to understanding "scholarly sources" and evaluating academic quality.

ASPECT questions to ask:

Authority: Who is responsible for the information?

  • Is it clear who or what company/organization is responsible for the web page contents?
  • Is there a link to an About page or other page that describes the mission and/or goals of the person, company, or organization?
  • Is there contact information, beyond an email address, that allows you to verify the legitimacy of the person, company, or organization?
  • Is there a print version of the material covered by this web page?
  • Is the web page copyrighted? If so, is there any indication who holds the copyright?
  • Is the entity responsible for the web page the same as the author(s) of the content on the web page?
  • What are the credentials or expertise of the entity responsible for the web page and/or the author(s) of the content?
  • Is the domain of the web page a .com, .org, .edu, or .gov? Other domain type? Remember that .com sites are commercial sites, .org are organization sites, .edu are education sites, and .gov are government sites. Each will have a particular motivation for providing you with information and this might help you to determine intent and/or bias.

Sources: Do they cite their sources? What sources do they cite?

  • Are sources for information included on the web page clearly listed so that information can be verified? Sources can include books, articles, data sets, documents, reports, other web pages, etc.

Purpose: To inform? Persuade? Entertain? Sell?

  • Is this web page meant to inform or educate?
  • Is this web page meant to persuade? Does it argue a perspective or specific opinion?
  • Is this web page meant to entertain or sell something?

Evenness: Objectivity, lack of bias, showing both (all) sides of an issue?

  • Is the information content on the web page clearly separate from advertising?
  • Are opinions clearly labeled? They might be labeled as "editorial content" or "opinion pieces."
  • Are other points of view covered and/or acknowledged?
  • ‚ÄčIf the content on the web page is biased, is that acknowledged?

Coverage: Is the issue covered thoroughly? What is left out?

  • Does the content support what you have found in other sources?
  • Is the web page comprehensive or inclusive enough for your needs?
  • Does the web page provide information that is relevant to your needs?

Timeliness: How current is the information?

  • Is the content on the web page new? Old? How new or old? Is this appropriate for your topic and/or research?
  • When was the web page created? When was it last updated?
  • Is there any information provided that describes how frequently the content is updated?
  • Do any news items or broadcasts include the date and time they were originally published or broadcast? (As opposed to the date they were included on the web page. For instance, news sites often have news stories on the web page that are days, weeks, or months old even though the web page is updated daily.)

Source (with slight modifications): Clark College Libraries