Tips for Reading Nonfiction

Need help reading the websites, speeches, and articles featured on this site?
Use these core strategies to tackle even the most complex informational texts.

Evaluate Web Sources

With all of the information readily available on the Web, how do you know what is credible and what is unreliable? Use these strategies to help you evaluate any Web source:

  • Consider whether the source is relevant. Skim the content of the source, and judge whether is it related to the topic you are investigating. Though it may include the keywords you searched for, the site may not help you answer your research questions. If the site isn’t relevant to your topic, move on to another source.
  • Determine who created the site. Is the person or organization an expert in the field under study or merely someone with an enthusiasm for the topic? Depending on your topic, you may want to avoid any sources that are not written by an authority on the subject.
  • Check the currency. Make a note of when the source was written or last updated. For some topics, such as a historic event or figure, it doesn’t matter whether the article was written recently. But for other topics, such as the latest advances in biotechnology, it’s important to find up-to-date information.
  • Identify the purpose. Is the purpose of the source to inform or educate, to share a personal interest, to entertain, to sell products or services, or to persuade? Knowing the purpose can help you decide whether the information is trustworthy.
  • Evaluate the objectivity. Determine whether the information shared is neutral or biased. An objective site fairly presents all sides of a subject or issue. A biased one presents information to support a particular viewpoint or opinion about the subject.
  • Validate the information. Even if you’ve decided that a source is reliable and accurate, always verify any information you find by consulting additional sources. Even experts sometimes disagree about “the facts.”