Evaluating information Geoff Walton
Plan for today • Introduction • Research in evaluating information • What does evaluation mean in this context? • Why is it important? • Task 1 how do you evaluate information? • Mini-lecture evaluating information effectively • Task 2 re-appraising your approach to evaluating information • Task 3, 4, 5 The information landscape • Plenary
Evaluating information effectively Geoff Walton (Staffordshire University) Dr. Mark Hepworth (Loughborough University)
What should our approach be…? • Define and apply criteria for evaluating information: • examine and compare, in a critical manner, information from various sources; • analyse the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods; • recognise and questions prejudice, deception, or manipulation; • recognise the cultural, physical, or other context within which the information was created and understand the impact of context on interpreting the information; • recognise and understand own biases and cultural context.
What criteria should we use? • Academic context: • Authority (.gov .edu. .ac .mil .co etc. author, organisation) • Time (up-to-dateness, published, period) • Coverage/ relevance (geographical, subject, information contribution, primary / secondary) • Accuracy (errors, corroboration) • Audience (age, specialised, general, level) • Format / style (logically organised, readability) • Documentation/ reliability (explanations of origin, bibliography) • Point of view (opinion, objectivity, emotional content, bias)
What people actually do…? • Users pay ‘little regard to the document content’ • ‘Speed of young people’s web searching indicates that little time is spent in evaluating information, either for relevance, accuracy or authority…’ • ‘Many teenagers thought that if a site was indexed on Yahoo then it had to be authoritative’.
User experiences: examples from research (web pages) • Information agnostic: Unaware or unconcerned regarding need to evaluate – copy and paste large chunks without checking quality • Information novice: Aware of need to evaluate information for quality but sees it black/ white, true/ false, either/ or terms • Information critic: Aware that it isn’t simply black and white, need to judge each source on its merits, talks about balance, weighing up, using range of criteria • Information skeptic: Can talk about the nature and relative value of evaluation criteria in a given setting, aware that all information is biased to some extent
Information agnostic • I didn’t really know about what type of things you should look for when you are looking at web sites • Really when you first go on a web site you don’t read all the information • [Before] I didn’t know what the things at the end like .ac, .org meant.
Information novice • I’m looking at references in the future I’m going to look and see whether it is from a big company where it’s very probably going to be factual • you don’t want to be writing stuff in your assignments that’s not true • you didn’t realise how many web sites could be frauds
Information critic • [..] you can like, judge web sites for their stature, […], basically how reliable information is going to be and whether it is worth putting in your essay or assignmentI look for where it comes from now. • I look at other universities pages ,they are always good to look at. Obviously people like the BBC, then if you look at one from a really random place I tend to look again. • When looking at a website it is important to check the author or who it was created by. You can check if it is a government website by looking at the web address. Some websites have headings saying, 'Background' or 'who am I?' this enables somebody to look for reliability.
Information skeptic • Some of them initially are important like reliability and relevance, obviously if you are going to reference something in an essay etc you need to know that the sources is reliable […] • Currency as well, to be honest, it needs to be up-to-date, opinions and things change. People thought the earth was flat but things get updated • It could be written by the government or the FA or something and they could make a pretty stand up point, but you could have a 3rd year student from a university make just as good a point and just as relevant.
Differences in student reflections on their evaluation skills after IL teaching intervention
Some ways of thinking about why evaluating information is important (Web) The internet mine of information Surface web just about anything Deeper web, government web pages, university web pages, ngos etc The ‘mother lode’/ ‘rich seam’/ ‘nuggets’ of peer reviewed content, authenticated or open source ejournals and ebooks
Another way of thinking about the same idea Information firmament, crystal orbs of quality information ‘We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars’ Most set their sights very low
Some ways of thinking about why evaluating information is important: reporting scientific research(1) Peer reviewed journal: Aspirin and its potential curative properties PhD Thesis: Aspirin and its possible effects on some categories of arthritis Popular magazine: Young scientist’s work points to possible cure for arthritis Sun Boffin finds miracle cure for arthritis
Some ways of thinking about why evaluating information is important: reporting scientific research(2) • PhD thesis • Peer reviewed journal • Professional magazine • Newspaper Pinch of salt rating: Very Low Pinch of salt rating: Low Pinch of salt rating: medium Pinch of salt rating: Dangerous!!
Conclusion: Ideally we should all do this… • a. Examine and compare information from various sources in order to evaluate reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias • b. Analyze the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods • c. Recognize prejudice, deception, or manipulation • d. Recognize the cultural, physical, or other context within which the information was created and understand the impact of context on interpreting the information