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Comm 454: Whiteness

Evaluating Information

With so much information available through different sources (websites, newspapers, magazines, journals) and not all of it equally credible it is important to know how to think critically about the various aspects of an information source.

We will be learning about a method called VQE, which includes three levels of evaluation:

1. Visual: surface level

2. Quality: just below the surface

3. Ethos: deep dive

Whether you know it or not, you engage in these levels of information pretty frequently -- every time you meet a new person, read something on the internet, or any other time you encounter a piece of new information.

Let’s use the analogy of water sports to see how we can apply the Visual Quality Ethos method of information evaluation:


Visual - on the surface

This is very quick, at a glance evaluation. Evaluating information visually is only sufficient when it doesn’t matter what source you use (e.g. argument with friends, where the Starbucks is, general knowledge).

Evaluating information visually

Things that you can quickly notice visually on source:

  • Date - when was it published, update times listed, date relevance?
  • Title - does it contain emotional cues?
  • Grammar/Spelling - are there any errors?
  • General topic
  • Ads/Pop ups
  • Author - is a name or organization mentioned?


Quality - below the surface

This level of evaluation is about determining credibility, basic purpose, content. This is the minimum level of evaluation for any source you want to use in college, whether it is for a class discussion, or for a more formal assignment.

Evaluating for Quality 1


Things that you might need to dig a little deeper to find out about a source’s quality:

  • Author/Organization/Credentials - Do they have the “right to write” about the topic? Credentials could mean education or experience - give examples of both.
  • References Listed - Where is the author/org getting their information?
  • Verify information with another source?
    • Do a quick Google search. Can you find this information easily?

Ethos - deep dive

Ethos in this case is referring to its “ethical appeal” -- what are they trying to convince you of, and why? When we try to evaluate the ethos of a source, we need to dig really deep and ask “big” questions.

Evaluating for ethos

Things you can ask yourself to determine the ethos of a source:

  • What is the purpose?
  • Does it make you feel anything (note emotions while reading)?
  • Where does the funding come from?
  • Is there bias (one side favored over the other, especially in an unfair way)? Is only one side of the topic presented?