Criteria for Quality in Information
Scope of Coverage
Scope of coverage refers to the extent to which a source explores a topic. Consider time periods, geography or jurisdiction and coverage of related or narrower topics.
Tip: When seeking information about the scope of coverage of a database, look for dates and information about excluded materials. Does the database cover the period of time of interest to you? Does it exclude select articles because of copyright licensing issues?
Authority refers to the expertise or recognized official status of a source. Consider the reputation of the author and publisher. When working with legal or government information, consider whether the source is the official provider of the information.
Tip: Authors recognized as experts amongst their peers are usually cited and reviewed in the literature. If a source claims official status (e.g., the House of Representatives is the official publisher of the U.S. Code), you should be able to verify the claim.
Objectivity is the bias or opinion expressed when a writer interprets or analyzes facts. Consider the use of persuasive language, the source's presentation of other viewpoints, it's reason for providing the information and advertising.
Tip: All writing, except for the dissemination of pure facts, contains a certain amount of bias. Does the source provide a balanced point of view? Does the author want to influence change? Is the advertising influencing the content?
Accuracy describes information that is factually irrefutable and complete. Consider the editing and publishing policy of the source. Is it peer-reviewed? Does it fact-check before publishing?
Tip: You should be able to verify factually correct information. Are there two or more reliable sources that provide the same information?
Timeliness refers to information that is current at the time of publication. Consider publication, creation and revision dates. Beware of Web site scripting that automatically reflects the current day's date on a page.
Tip: The information provided might have been current at the time it was published. Can you establish the publication date? Does the revision date cover changes in content or aesthetic revisions only?
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