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UNLV Libraries -> Architecture Studies Library -> Finding Resources -> Module 12: -> Evaluation of Information

Module 12: Evaluation of Information

Objectives :

  • Identify criteria for evaluating information
  • Give examples of how criteria is applied
  • Provide links to tutorials and documents on evaluating information

Criteria for evaluation of information include authority, currency, accuracy, and content.

 

Authority and Objectivity: Who is responsible for the information? Are they an authority? Do they have a particular point of view? How might that affect what they choose to include and what facts they choose to present.

Example : Topic: Sprawl

Competitive Enterprise Institute: Fact And Fiction On "Smart Growth" & "Urban Sprawl"  http://www.cei.org/gencon/003,02657.cfm

Sierra Club: 2000 Sprawl Report http://www.sierraclub.org/sprawl/report00/intro.asp

Although the title of the first document provides some clues as to the viewpoint, knowing something about the organizations mounting the documents provides necessary context. Read on!

Who is the Competitive Enterprise Institute?

The "About CEI" icon takes you to this description of the Institute: The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. We believe that consumers are best helped not by government regulation but by being allowed to make their own choices in a free marketplace.

Who is the Sierra Club?

The "Inside Sierra Club" icon on the Sierra Club homepage takes you to this description of the organization: The Sierra Club has over 600,000 members. Our mission statement:

  • Explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth
  • Practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources
  • Educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment
  • Use all lawful means to carry out these objectives

Bias/Point of View?

Both of the sprawl sites above are mounted by organizations and have the ".org" in the web address. Each has a completely different view of sprawl/development. Each has a bias. Interestingly, both have a jaundiced view of government involvement!

As Tina Kelley in "How to Separate Good Data from Bad" [The New York Times, 4 March 1999, G9] says �some people who are running sites are trying to confuse you: www.amnesty-tunisia.org and www.amnesty.org/tunisia, [now defunct sites] for instance, carried opposing messages. Don�t forget that hackers can sometimes commandeer legitimate sites. It is also true that anybody with a little bit of money can get a .com, .org or .net site, so the suffix is in no way definitive.�


No Name??

Although you will almost never run into this problem with printed published information, it can be a problem with some internet sites. If you find a document and you are unable to determine who mounted it or what their affiliation is, this is a red flag. Be very cautious of the information you find on such pages.


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Currency: how current is the information? [Especially important where recent developments may make older information inaccurate or incomplete.]

Example : Building Code Library

How the site presents itself

US Architects Index, at www.usarchitects.com [now defunct], promoted itself as "the future in finding architects with web sites".

Clues to when updated

  1. At the bottom it states "Copyright� 1995-2002 DataCAD Sales.com -- so it looks like there have been no updates (see screen capture)
  2. The page information substantiates that no updates have been made since August 9, 2002. [Using a Firefox browser click on Tools > Page Info in the toolbar]
  3. A search for a category of architects results in pages with a copyright 1995-1997. (see screen capture)

Thinking it through

Architects add and change websites frequently. This site could lead to no longer functioning sites, and even worse, omit more recently created sites.

 

Other examples of where currency of the information is important

Currency could be an issue with a search for regulatory material, products, names and addresses � anything that changes or might change and need updating with regularity.


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Accuracy: Is the content accurate?

Clues include

  1. who put up the site
  2. how current it is
  3. whether documentation [where the information came from] is included

Bottom Line

Be aware that even a reputable site can put up recent but inaccurate information. [embarrassing example follows!]

Example: The UNLV Architecture Studies Library [a reputable source] mounted a list of Vegas hotel-casinos. When viewed Feb. 22, 2001, "Updated 1/03/2001" was noted at the bottom of the file [seemingly current]. However, as of 2/22/01, the list still showed ALADDIN 2000* ESTIMATED OPENING AUG. 17. It also showed a 1966 addition to Caesar�s Palace with the same number of rooms and the same cost as the original building (also 1966). This is inaccurate, combining information from the entry for the 1966 original with the information from the entry for the 1996 addition. [Sometimes common sense and an alert eye is enough to save you from swallowing inaccurate information!!!] No sources of information are noted on the site.

Documentation

Lack of documentation means you will have to verify the accuracy or inaccuracy of the information based on your own research.

Documentation provides clues on the currency of the information (e.g. it may include a citation for an article published in 2001).

Documentation gives you more confidence in the information, although that is not always justified since a poor source of information can be documented just as easily as a good source [would you trust the information in another student�s paper even if it had a bibliography of sources??].


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Content Substance: Is the content substantial?

Factors to consider

  1. how much information you need!
  2. what type of information do you need (e.g. text? graphics?)
  3. might other sources be more extensive?

In most cases your best approach is not to stop with the first source or site you find on a topic, but to continue to browse and research until you have a sense of the variety and extent of information available.

Example : Christian de Portzamparc, an increasingly well-known French architect

Sketchy site

Portzamparc: http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/9357/archiworld/christian_de_portzamparc.html (No longer exists! Found October 2001 - Gone April 2002. This illustrates another problem with using less-than-substantial web pages!)

The above link at one time consisted of one screen noting his birth, his education, selected prizes (4) and selected projects (6, no links). There was no date given for when it was mounted on the web. There was no indication of who mounted it on the web. There was no way to judge whether the information was accurate, but it was certainly not very substantial.

His Firm�s site

Portzamparc�s firm Atelier Christian de Portzamparc: http://www.chdeportzamparc.com/

Here there are links to a biography, to projects (54 with brief project information, seven of those with links to graphics), and to contact information. There is no "last updated" info on the page, but the View/Page- info screen says it was updated March 2000, almost a year ago. So the information should be accurate unless there have been changes (such as who belongs to the firm and how to contact them) in the last year. Although this is not as substantial as would be necessary for a paper on the architect (and in addition it is in French), it is substantially better than the first site.

Most substantial

The library has several books devoted to Portzamparc, including Christian de Portzamparc edited and photographed by Yukio Futagawa (published in 1995, 159 pages) and Christian de Portzamparc edited by Michel Jacques (published in 1996, 167 pages).

ALL SOURCES OF INFORMATION ARE NOT EQUAL; THIS IS ESPECIALLY OBVIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO SUBSTANCE!


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Quiz

  1. Which of these sources is most likely to present an unbiased assessment of the UNLV School of Architecture graduate program?
    1. National Architecture Accrediting Board
    2. UNLV School of Architecture
    3. Former graduate students

  2. Which of these sources is most likely to present a comprehensive description of the UNLV School of Architecture graduate program?
    1. National Architecture Accrediting Board
    2. UNLV School of Architecture
    3. Former graduate students

  3. Which of these sources is most likely to present an insight into the studio culture at the UNLV School of Architecture graduate program?
    1. National Architecture Accrediting Board
    2. UNLV School of Architecture
    3. Former graduate students

Quiz answers (in order) as easy as A, B, C


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Links to tutorials and documents on evaluating information

Evaluation of architecture periodicals: Blake, Peter. 1996. "When More is Less & Less Is More." Provocations: An Online Journal of Architecture and Ideas. [Online]. Available:  http://www.design-site.net/blakemag.htm

Evaluation of information sources, a list of web pages by Alastair Smith: http://www.vuw.ac.nz/~agsmith/evaln/evaln.htm

Evaluation of print sources:  http://www.library.cornell.edu/okuref/research/skill26.htm

Evaluating websites: http://www.lib.purdue.edu/rguides/studentinstruction/evaluation/evaluatingwebsites.html

Evaluation of Internet Resources (University Libraries, University at Albany): http://169.226.11.130/divs/usered/webeval/

 

Questions? Ask the Architecture Studies Librarian online http://www.library.unlv.edu/arch/archquestions.html or any of the staff in the Architecture Studies Library. The general phone number for the library is 702-895-1959.

If you have comments about the usefulness of this module and/or how it can be improved, please contact Jeanne Brown, Architecture Studies Librarian, at jeanne.brown@unlv.edu.

 


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Monday, 17-Dec-2012 10:50:31 PST