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Research Guides@Tufts

Evaluating Information

How to Evaluate Videos

This page will help you to evaluate the information you find in videos and includes a series of questions to ask yourself depending on where you found the video.  Keep in mind that, whenever you’re evaluating resources for credibility, in whatever format, the first question you need to ask is who is responsible for the content. In the case of a video, you also have to consider where you found it and why it was created or published.

Below are some guidelines to follow when evaluating videos.

Evaluating Videos on News Websites

If you've discovered a video on a mainstream news site such as PBS.org, CNN.com, NYTimes.com, CBS.com or other website of a large news or broadcast organization, your next step would be to evaluate the content for what it does or doesn’t do. For example, if you're watching a news clip from CNN’s website, the length of the clip provides the first clue as to how in-depth the topic is going to be covered. If it’s a very short clip, you need to consider what it includes but also what it doesn’t include. So if it’s an interview with someone who is a participant in a particular event:

  • Ask yourself whether the short clip does full justice to the topic or does it only provide a limited amount of information. In this case, the information itself is probably fairly credible (since it’s backed up by a major news organization) but it might be limited in scope and leave out crucial voices or other information.

Keep these factors in mind when you evaluate the following video:

ICE ignores California law in courthouse arrests, prompting outcry from local officials

SAN FRANCISCO - U.S. immigration agents arrested two people at a Northern California courthouse, including a man detained in a hallway on his way to a hearing, flouting a new state law requiring a judicial warrant to make immigration arrests inside such facilities.

Evaluating Videos on YouTube & Other Video Hosting Sites

If the video is hosted on a site like YouTube or you find it on another video hosting site such as Vimeo, then you need to do a lot of extra work to evaluate its credibility.

  • You need to figure out who is responsible for the content (who produced/directed/wrote the video).
  • You need to evaluate the video’s content. For example, if you find a video on YouTube that purports to be educational, you should do some additional research on the content creator's background to discover their qualifications and the perspective they bring.
  • You also need to verify any statistics or factual information using other sources.

If you’re watching a documentary:

  • You need to figure out who created the content, in what context it was created (was it produced for a television network like PBS, for example), and for what purpose. In the case of video content, purpose is a really important consideration because there are lots of videos out there that aim to sway people to a specific point of view and function more like propaganda than high-quality information sources. And these types of videos can be deceptive and try to mimic the look and feel of a legitimate news or education source.
  • In this case, when you’re watching a documentary you need to ask yourself a lot of questions:  who is responsible for the content?; who is the audience (a certain political group, adults, children, researchers)?; why was this created (to persuade, to inform, to educate)?

Keep these factors in mind when you evaluate the following video:

Evaluating Social Media Videos and Deepfakes

If you discovered a video in your social media feed then you need to do even more work to evaluate its credibility. Along with the same questions you would ask of a video you found on YouTube, you also need to ask questions about why someone is sharing the video and whether or not it's being individually shared by a friend or someone you follow or if the content is being pushed by a particular group or organization.

For example, there are many advocacy organizations that use personal data to target specific users and pay for their content to show up in your feed. So because it can be so difficult to trace the origin of this content, never accept this information at face value--no matter who shared it!

And remember that "deepfakes," videos that have been altered in order to falsify information, are easier to create and more prevalent than ever. If something seems too good, or too bad, to be true, then it probably is. 

Watch this video to see how deepfakes work:

Top AI researchers race to detect 'deepfake' videos: 'We are outgunned'

Top artificial-intelligence researchers across the country are racing to defuse an extraordinary political weapon: computer-generated fake videos that could undermine candidates and mislead voters during the 2020 presidential campaign. And they have a message: We're not ready.

Keep in Mind...

Remember, depending on where you find the video, you need to ask a lot of questions about it before accepting it as a legitimate source of information. Along with determining who is responsible for a piece of information, the other important question to keep in mind about evaluating any resource is why. Always ask yourself why something was published or created. If it’s hard to figure out why something exists in the form that it does, then you probably don’t want to use it as a source of authoritative information.

It’s easy to determine why scholarly information like research articles and books do what they do. It’s pretty easy to figure out who is responsible, where they were published, and what they're trying to accomplish. The same goes for reputable news sources. But when you’re faced with a source where those questions are difficult to answer, or where the answer is negative, then you should ignore it and move on to another better source of information.