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Evaluating Information: Purpose

A research guide to evaluating print and online resources


  • Why did the author produce the work?  To inform? To entertain? To sell? To persuade?  While reading a book, article, or webpage, consider these questions:
    • Do the authors make their intentions or purposes clear?
      • Lawrence S. Ritter's The Glory of Their Times is subtitled The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It. After Hall of Famer Ty Cobb died in 1961, Ritter felt that "someone should do something, and do it quickly, to record for the future the remembrances of a sport that has played such a significant role in American life. . . . It seemed obvious that there was only one way to go about this, and that was to take a tape recorder and go and talk to as many old-time ball players as one could find and ask them what it was like."
      • The slick-looking website of the RYT Hospital: Dwayne Medical Center features the "first human male pregnancy" and is obviously a spoof. (Note that the Read More, Contact Us, About Us, and other links do not work.)
      • The mission of Voices from the Gaps: Women Artists and Writers of Color, a project of the English Department at the University of Minnesota, is to bring together "marginalized resources and knowledge about women artists of color to serve secondary and college education across the world."
      • Skim through this study of Feline Reactions to Bearded Men. Within a few minutes you can tell that this site is designed for entertainment, not scholarship. The article on "Feline Responses to Hats" is in the bibliography under "Seuss, Doctor."
      • This website on the Staten Island Ferry Disaster (in 1963 a boat was dragged underwater by a giant octopus) was featured in an Associated Press news article.
    • Does an author's purpose coincide with your own purpose? Would you feel comfortable using and citing the work?