Chapter 9: Research and Evidence

9.5 Evaluating Research

Evaluating Research

There are five fundamental questions that can help you identify the best measure of credibility and reliability of a source. These steps are easy to remember because they follow the five standard questions you have been learning to ask throughout your life.  The five questions of who, what, when, where, and why create the 5 W’s of Web Site Evaluation.

Identifying the 5 W’s of Web Site Evaluation


Most credible articles include an author of the text. However, if there is not an author noted in a byline, the author may be a sponsoring organization, company, or entity. The best way to locate the author if no byline is present is to scroll to the bottom of the web page. At the bottom of the page, you will usually find the author (entity) and a copyright date. This serves as a published or last updated (revised) date for the source. How do you identify an author when using a Youtube video, or a blog post? The author is not the site, but the name of the responsible party that posted the content. It may seem strange, but you will use the username if a formal name is not provided. Once you have identified the author, you want to evaluate how credible or reliable they are as a source. If there is no information on the web page, you can conduct an Internet search of the author or entity. You can also look for reviews or conduct an article search to see consumer opinions or news related to the author or entity.


What determines the purpose, point-of-view, or type of site you may be used for research. The purpose may be to inform or sell to consumers. It may be a biased news organization or a stay-at-home dad’s blog about raising a daughter. It may be an educational site created by an institution of learning or an entertainment site with funny videos that encourages subscribing. Determine how the information may contribute to your research as well as what ideas may be presented and shared. It is important to consider what information you will use based on your own purpose and point-of-view, as well as audience interest. Identify bias, fact or opinion, and evaluate the sources you use. The web site should include formal citations or references for material that is not written by the author. You also should be able to navigate the site without problem or error. Privacy and safety should be a concern when navigating an un-trusted site.


When provides the copyright or publish date of a source. It is imperative that you can discern when a site was written or put online. Without this information, you may not have relevant or current information, and that can be misleading. It can also be an indication that the site is not maintained or updated. If a date is not provided, the credibility of the site and the information on the site is questionable.


Where may seem like it is asking the same question as Who or What, but it is asking specific questions that examine responsibility and transparency in research. Many web sites will borrow, restate, or write their own information. It is important to identify the primary source (created) along with the secondary source (altered or forwarded) information. In evaluating the way the information is presented on the site, it is important to consider the creator of the content. If you are reviewing a study or survey, you want to consider who was conducting the study, for what purpose, using what resources, when, and to what end. If you know that a company conducted a study of their product and only used those that are on their email list, you can see how this information would be inconsistent and not representative of the larger population. Many companies are subsidiaries of larger companies, so you may not realize that in buying organic (thought of as local or homegrown), you are buying from a large food processing company.


The last question to ask is why should I use the source? The answer is really a combination of all of the other questions. If you have been able to successfully answer all of the 5 W’s and you do not have any doubts about the credibility or reliability of a site, you can explain why a source is useful. When conducting research, variety is also important. Make sure that you are not using sources that are too similar or that present the same information. If you have a source that allows you to answer a research question, prove a point, or provide interest, you need to ask: “Why do I need this source?” The source should offer a segment of the research or purpose in your message that is not replicated somewhere else.


Being able to identify the 5 W’s and how to apply each one when selecting and locating evidence is another contribution to Informed Learning. Applying this level of evaluation and critique is preparing you to succeed academically and professionally by critically thinking about choosing and integrating your research for the desired outcome.

Now that you have an understanding of Web Site Evaluation, it is time to review citing your research so that you maintain academic honesty and avoid plagiarism.

Referencing and Citations

A cite or citation is providing a reference or attributing the source ofevidence used for justification of an argument or statement, especially in a scholarly work.When citing sources, it is important that you provide internal (in-text) citations in the text of your paper or speech outline, as well as oral citations when making a presentation. These citations help the reader/audience evaluate the credibility of the information. The internal citations should correlate to a full citation included in the bibliography. Internal citations are often referred to as parenthetical citations in a paper. Depending on the style guide that you are using, the required information may change. Please refer to your course’s recommended citation guide for assistance.

One way to cite sources in a presentation is to use the BASE model. The BASE model presents four key areas where you can cite the Body (author or entity), Access (published or updated date), Source (evidence type), and Example (further information). Presenting one area will provide a citation, but combining these will strengthen your work overall.


If we wanted to cite a Copyright video we found on Youtube in a presentation, we could use the BASE Method.

The Sentence

The following YouTube video on copyright, exceptions, and fair use was posted in 2015 on the educational channel Crash Course by Stan Muller.

Breaking it down

example of BASE citation in a sentence

The References Page

We learned that our internal citations correspond to the full citations in the references page or bibliography. The references page is an alphabetical list of all of the resources we used or consulted in our research. The information includes: author or entity, date, title, sponsor or source, and access and publishing information. The format for the order and specific information content depends on the required style. Please refer to the recommended citation guide for assistance with citing.


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