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Evaluating information

A rollerdex

Students should be aware of the following.

  • All resources used for academic work need to be evaluated, but this is especially the case with information found on the internet as it is not subject to regulation.
  • Information found on the internet can be inaccurate and out of date.
  • It is important to be selective and only use material that adds to your academic argument.

These materials will help your students to:

  • understand the importance of evaluating information, and be able to use a structured approach to carry out evaluation
  • be able to relate evaluation to their Open University study


The PROMPT evaluation criteria

PROMPT stands for presentation, relevance, objectivity, method, provenance and timeliness and can be a helpful acronym to keep in mind while evaluating information. There is a section in Safari on evaluating information which provides a fuller explanation of its importance and how students can evaluate information in a structured way. A printable checklist is available via Safari which you can adapt for your own use. You could use it with your own selection of websites relevant to the subject area of the module.

Suggested level: 1-2

Either ask students to look at the resources you have selected in order to evaluate them and then introduce the PROMPT criteria, or ask them to evaluate the resources after talking through PROMPT.

  • In a face-to-face tutorial with computing facilities ask students to evaluate the material either individually or in small groups, and then discuss their findings with the main group.
  • If there are no computing facilities at a face-to-face tutorial (or your students are not using computers because it is optional for their module) distribute a print version of the material.
  • Post the PROMPT guidelines and links to the websites on your online conference and encourage students to use them for reference.

Suggested level: 2 and beyond

  • To encourage the students to relate to their own work what they found out about evaluating information, ask them to produce an annotated bibliography explaining why they chose the websites or articles included in their assignment references.
  • Get them to annotate their bibliography for their next assignment, for example to indicate why they chose one site over another. Explain, by way of introduction, that you may wonder why a student has chosen to include particular sources in their bibliography and annotating it would indicate why. Provide an example of your own to start the students off.
  • After an assignment has been submitted, divide the students into groups so that they can discuss why they chose the articles and websites they did for their assignment.
  • Ask students to rate the top three resources they used for their assignment, with reasons. They could do this individually and report back to the group, or discuss it in a small group and then report back to the main group. Questions to explore include the following.
    • Did evaluating the resources mean they chose different resources than they would have done otherwise?
    • Has evaluating information had an impact on the kind of resources they would use for study: would they rather use journal articles and books (including electronic) or websites?