When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. Always evaluate your sources.
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Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly.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?