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Information Literacy Tutorial: Module 4 -Evaluate Information

The Information Literacy Tutorial is designed to enhance your information research skills. Through it, you will learn how best to exploit library resources, to look for useful information, and how to evaluate and cite information sources.

Evaluate Information - all formats

We live in an information rich age: and can easily find lots of information on a wide variety of topics, in a wide variety of formats.

However, there is a lot of nonsense, jokes, outdated information, manipulated information, available (both in print and online. Ttry to use the  following criteria help you examine the reliability, relevance, and usefulness of what you find, read, listen to, or watch.

Who (Authority)

  • Can you identify the author? What are the author's credentials?
  • If the author is an organization, what type of organization is it?
  • Who hosts or publishes the webpage? Is the webpage affiliated with a reputable organization?
  • Look for the information in "about", "about us", "who we are" or "what is"... This usually appears on the top or at the bottom of the Website's homepage.
  • Check the domain (the three-letter extension of the URL) for affiliation. A domain name can often tell you if it is a government site, an academic site, or a commercial site. See examples below:
Domains Hosts Examples
.gov an official government site
.ac .edu an educational organization
.org mostly non-profit organizations


a commercial organization

When (Currency, Timeliness)

  • How up-to-date is the information listed?
  • When was it published?
  • In online, when was the webpage last revised?  (Look for a last revised or updated date on a webpage).

What (Objectivity & Evidence)

  • What is the purpose of this book, journal, magazine, site or page? Why was it created? Look in the "about" section for possible goals, missions or purposes of the website.
  • Is it striving for objectivity? Avoid obvious bias if you are trying to report "facts", and try to cross-check.
  • If the newspaper, magazine, journal, or website carries advertisements, consider what they advertise.
  • Is the content "scholarly" or "popular"? Is the topic covered in-depth, or is it given a general or surface treatment?
  • Did the author give evidence or acknowledge the original sources of any data/figures/charts included?
  • Who are the newspaper, magazine, journal, or website's target audience?
  • Does it suit my needs?

Cross-check (Correlation & Verification)

  • Can you find the information, theories etc. backed up by other information sources (newspapers, magazines, scholarly jouurnals)
  • Cross-check statistics, news reports, etc.

Here's some resources to help: (Hat tip to the Idaho State University's Research Path Tutorial: Evaluation)

Search Engines

Search engine characteristics:

  • Use a computer program called Spider to gather Web information
  • Search results are ranked by relevancy instead of by quality
  • Keyword-based search

Examples of search engine: GoogleYahoo , Baidu (百度) 

Tips for effective searching:

  • Identify the major concepts of your search.
  • Choose relevant keywords that describe these concepts.
  • Use search operators to control your search and filter your results. Search operators may vary among different search engines.
  • See related research guide: Google Search Tips & Tricks

This table lists some common search operators used in Google. Google’s default behavior is to find web documents that include all the words you entered.

Operators Meaning Example
OR Search for either word education OR technology
" " Find an exact phase or word "global warming"
- Exclude words from a search "star wars" -movie
+ A word or phrase preceded by a + must be present in pages retrieved +"youth problems"
define: Find definition of a given word define:library
filetype: Find a specific file type democracy filetype:ppt
marketing filetype:doc
* Fill in the missing information The "334" new academic structure *
site: Search only the selected site or domain "education policy"

HKUST Library Web Resources

Resources What Is It Mode of Access
Library Catalog on PowerSearch
  • Well-structured system to keep records of all HKUST Library's materials for easy retrieval.
  • Search the Library catalog to find out what is available in the Library (books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, etc.)
Open access
Research Guides

Quick help on finding resources for course projects or specific topics.

  • Course guides are prepared for library classes supporting specific courses.
  • Subject guides list resources on topics related to the university's curriculum or research.
  • Database guides highlight important features of some heavily used or complex databases.
Open access
Cover full-text or citations and abstracts of different research literature including books, journal and magazine articles, news articles, statistics, patents and standards. Most databases require subscription; access is restricted to HKUST students and staff

Library Catalog vs Databases vs Search Engines

Library Catalog Databases Search Engines

Find and locate materials collected by the Library.

Search at macro level, i.e., find books, journals, magazines, DVDs, but not chapters or articles published inside a book, journal or magazine

Find journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, reviews, statistics, etc. Any information on the Web
Link to e-version, if available Many provide full text articles or books, or link to full text using find at hkust May or may not provide full text access.
Open Access Require subscription $$$ Open Access
Good quality control since the library materials are selected by librarians or recommended by faculty and students, based on their relevancy to the university's research and teaching needs. Quality control as databases are selected by librarians, based on:
  • Content coverage & university's research and teaching needs.
  • Interface design and ease of use.
  • Functionalities.
  • User recommendation
No quality control, anyone can publish on the Web.

Information is not stable; url and content may change or disappear.

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