Reliability is a matter of judging whether you can trust the information source. You have a lifetime of experience perceiving the kinds of cues used to judge reliability. Ask yourself the following:
- Has the source been reviewed or refereed by experts in the field?
- Are the “facts” well-researched and backed up by evidence?
- Are the quotations, statements and data cited so that you can track them down for verification?
- Nowadays, anyone can produce professional-looking material with minimal investment of time, effort, skill or money. Is an accredited university, research institution, reputable journal or book publisher behind this research? If not, what kind of organization is behind it, if any?
- Are there obvious clues like spelling and grammar errors or amateurish design and graphics?
There are some additional factors to take into account when evaluating web sites because anyone can “publish” to the web, and there is no equivalent to the editorial oversight or selectiveness a publishing house, academic institution or academic library will employ. Ask yourself:
- Are there obvious clues like broken links, bad code or garish and cheesy design?
- Are there obtrusive or irrelevant advertisements or links to buy something?
- If it’s a blog, is the blogger an expert or affiliated with a relevant and reputable insitution or organization?
- Are there links to article marketing sites like Ezine, Squidoo and Associated Content, which attract visitors by putting out articles with a high density of popular keywords? These articles are written by freelancers who have no time, motivation or expertise for quality research.