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3a. Evaluation Criteria

Criteria for Evaluating 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.

Criteria Questions to Ask

1. What is it?
Look at how information is packaged for clues about what it is and how it can be used?

  • Look for physical clues as to the origin of the information.
  • In what medium was the item created and distributed (print, electronic, artifact)?
  • How was the information published (or not)?
  • Is it a piece of a larger entity (chapter, article, webpage from a website)?

2. Authority / Credibility
Determining the author of 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)?
  • Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)? 
  • Does the publisher specialize in certain subject areas of knowledge?
  • Does the author provide citations? Do other sources cite this source?

3. Purpose
Asking why information was created can help determine how (or if) it should be used for research.

  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
  • Identify possible bias of the author, publisher or sponsor.

4. Accuracy
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?
  • Does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?

5. 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?
6. 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Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly.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?
  • Is currency important to your research?

 

Information Cycle - University of Washington Libraries

A thorough look at the cycle of information exemplified by the reporting of the 2011 Tōhoku (Japan) earthquake and tsunami. Shared with permission from University of Washington Libraries, 12:29 length.

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