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Journalism & Media Studies

Using Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

5W + 1H = Confidence

How to evaluate the credibility and quality of your sources.



Questions to Ask Tools to Use
  • Who wrote the page?  
  • What are their qualifications or credentials?
  • Is contact information available?
    • Name (individual, company, organization), Email, Phone, Mail address?
  • Who owns the domain name?


  • Who collected the data? 
  • Do they have an interest in the results?

To establish identity and credentials, check for the following:

Tip: When searching for names, use a variety of combinations.

firstname lastname
“Firstname lastname”
“first name * lastname”


Questions to Ask Tools to Use
  • Statement of mission, purpose, target audience?
  • Are sources/information documented?
  • Evidence of a point of view/bias?
  • Agenda of a political, religious, social group or institution?
  • If advertising, is it clearly differentiated from the content?
  • Part of a larger publication/site?  If so, what is it and what is the mission/purpose of that publication?


  • Do the statistics show any bias?
  • Is the coverage complete?  What was the size of the sample for study?
  • Has the data been repackaged?
  • Is the data from a primary source?  If a secondary source, has it been documented so you can find it?

Use information and links found on the pages:

  • Check About Us, Sponsors, Philosophy, Background, but verify self-reported information using the tools in the Who section above.
  • Truncate the url through each forward slash "/" to see the context of the page you are reading.



Questions to Ask Tools to Use

Copyright, Content, Update

  • Is there a date--copyright or content?
  • When was the file modified--update?
  • Is it updated and timely enough to be useful
  • Was it previously published?  If so, is there a cite/reference?
  • Is it “stale” or “dusty” information on a time-sensitive or evolving topic?


  • Are the data timely?
  • Are the data undated?

Use the metadata (hidden data that describes what you are viewing) to determine dates.

Static Web pages ending in .htm or .html

  • Copy/paste the following script into the search box on the page.
    • Note: if using Chrome you will need to manually type the search string.
  • Firefox: Right click on page > View Page Info > Last modified date
  • Internet Explorer: Right click on page > Properties > Created and Modified dates

Dynamic Web pages and time stamps

  • Some servers will include a time stamp for updates (modifications).

Page properties for files (.pdf, .doc)

  • PDF:  Select File > Properties
  • DOC: Select File > Info



Questions to Ask Tools to Use
  • Who is hosting the page (publisher)? 
  • How reputable is the publisher?
  • Is it what you would expect?
  • Can the information be found elsewhere?

Metrics about the site or blog


All-in-one social media



Questions to Ask Tools to Use
  • Type of domain?
    ◻com ◻org ◻gov ◻mil ◻net ◻~personal ◻US ◻non-Us
  • What is the page designed to do?
    ◻sell  ◻advocate  ◻inform  ◻vent/rant ◻other
  • Why would you use this information over other information available?
  • Does it fit with your research goals?


How well

Questions to Ask Tools to Use
  • Are there significant spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Is the site well organized and do the links work?
  • Are the facts correct and can they be verified?
  • Are there data or external sources to support opinions or conclusions?
  • Do the conclusions follow from the facts?
  • Is there “quality” information?
  • Documented with links or footnotes?
  • Links to other well chosen resources?
  • If copied/reproduced information, are there permissions listed?
A close reading of the page will provide the answers to these questions.


Final Judgement

Questions to Ask Tools to Use
  • Is it good enough?  
  • Is there another source?

Creating Web sites is easy, cheap (sometimes free), unregulated, and unmonitored.

The burden is on the reader to establish authorship, validity, timeliness, and integrity.

Caveat lector!  Let the reader beware!