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Criteria for Evaluating & Analyzing Sources
When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.
||Questions to Ask
Authority / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.
- Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
- Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
- Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
- Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?
The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.
- Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
- Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
- Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.
- Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
- To what extent does the source answer your research question?
- Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
- Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
|Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
- When was the source written and published?
- Has the information been updated recently?
- Is currency pertinent to your research?
|Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased.
- What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?
Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.
- Is the source well-written and organized?
- To what extent is it professional looking?
- If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
- If it is a website, are links broken?
Limit Google Searches to .edu or .gov Websites
You can limit your online search to credible sources by using this formula when searching Google.
Your topic, followed by a colon (:), followed by .edu or .gov or .org
Ex. police brutality:.gov
This will limit your search results to government publications, college and university websites, or organizations, which are authoritative, credible sources.
What to Look For
Read the "About Us" section
Google the author:
- Have they published other papers or articles?
- In what journals have these articles appeared?
- What are their affiliations? (university? research institution? employment history)
- Read their biography
- Do they have an obvious bias on a subject?