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Evaluating Sources

Evaluation becomes important in choosing what to read or use and in determining how much weight to give sources. Think about the source of the information and the suitability of the contents. You may not have time to read everything on your topic. If you need guidance, consult your professors or a librarian.

  • Is the information well documented with footnotes and a bibliography? Is the bibliography current relative to the source, and is it annotated?
  • Does the author use primary sources or rely mainly on secondary sources?
  • Does the source appear to be objective and thorough? Do you notice political or cultural bias? Are statements substantiated by facts or documents? Has the author omitted people or events which should have been included? Reading book reviews and doing a cited reference search can help you address these questions. (Cited reference searches show where an article or book has been cited by other publications.  See a Librarian for help).
  • When was the source published? For your topic is it important to have the most current information?
  • Is the information specific to your topic or too generalized?
  • Was the source recommended by a knowledgeable person or one of many found in the research process?
  • What are the credentials of the author? Does the book or article mention affiliations, or background? Do book reviews reflect views of colleagues?
  • Who is the publisher of the book or article? A university press, popular press, scholarly organization, a political group? Is the book intended for the general public, students, or professionals?
  • Does the item include useful statistics, graphs, maps, illustrations? Is the source of these identified?

Evaluating What You Find on the Internet:

When doing research using the internet, you will likely run across a whole range and variety of resources. For help with judging the usefulness and authority of webpages, consult these resources:  

Evaluating Information Found on the Internet
A guide by Elizabeth Kirk, Johns Hopkins University Libraries. Nicely lays out the criteria for consideration.

Evaluating Web Content
Guide from the University at Albany Libraries.

Internet Detective Tutorial (Wise up to the Web)
British tutorial on evaluating internet resources.

Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages (from Cornell University)

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