6-Evaluating Sources

A Source’s Neighborhood

To understand this concept and begin to use it, imagine that all the sites on the web constitute a community. Just like in a geographical community, there are neighborhoods in which individual sites hang out.

Thinking about what neighborhood a source is in on the web can help you decide whether the site is credible and suits your purpose.

The Outernet is a comic that depicts common web sites as parts of a city - eBay is the mall, Google is the library, YouTube is the movie theatre, Facebook is a park, and Twitter is the town square. Transportation modes like buses and bikes are internet service providers.
Visualize the web as a community. (Image source: John Atkinson,
Wrong Hands)

Audio: Neighborhoods on the Web

Listen to the audio clip (or read the text version) to hear how intuitive this concept is. After you listen, the next activity will show you how to apply the concept.

Listen to Audio | View Text Version

Tip: Author’s Purpose for Print

Rather than examine print sources for their web neighborhood, examine them for their author’s purpose. Read the introduction and conclusion and look at the table of contents to discern the author’s purpose.

For instance, did the author intend to use the book or magazine article to inform/educate, persuade, sell, or entertain?

And is the author’s purpose suitable for your purpose? For instance, does the fact that a resource was intended to persuade mean it can’t help you answer your research question? (As you know from Sources and Information Needs, yes.)

Activity: Self-Check

Why might you want to read information on an advocacy site (from the neighborhood of sites that promote particular ideas and behavior)—even when you’re writing a term paper and it’s not acceptable to cite that source because it persuades instead of educates and is not objective? See the bottom of the page for the answer.

Clues About a Website’s Neighborhood

Watch the Understanding Google Search Results movie to better understand how you can quickly determine what kind of information you’ve turned up in a Google search.

Movie: Understanding Google Search Results (no audio)


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Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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