Why Evaluate Sources?
It is important to use reputable sources for your research, so you can be sure that they are giving you the best information.
Most articles you find through the library databases and books you find in the library should be reputable resources. Still, it's important to check, especially if you are using websites in your research.
Know Your Sources
There are four main things to consider when deciding whether to use a source in your research:
1. Authority / Credibility
- Who is the author (person, company, or organization)? Is there a way to get in touch with him or her (address, phone, email)?
- Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)? Does the source provide information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
- Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable? Can you go look at the same articles or websites that he cites?
- Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
- Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
- Is the terminology and language used easy to understand and appropriate for the level of the audience?
- 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?
- Is the source well-written, organization, and professional-looking? Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
- If it is a website, can you navigate around easily? Are there broken links or images?
- When was the source written and published?
- Has the information been updated recently?
- Is currency pertinent to your research?
4. Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
- 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?
- Are there ads or "kickback" links on the webpage?
If your source passes the test on all or most of these questions, it's probably okay to use. If it fails in more than one category, put it aside and look for a similar book, article, or site that might be a little bit better.
Not sure if your source passes the test? Check out this video and follow along for a walkthrough.