There are many types of sources to choose from when you are doing research. Choosing which source is appropriate may be confusing to students. Is a source scholary or popular? Is the author credible? Is the source current? These and other questions will be answered within this guide to help you evaluate your sources correctly. Do not worry!! This process may look daunting at first, but after some practice, source evaluation will become second nature.
Download and use this worksheet to score your source. This worksheet is another tool to help you determine whether or not your you should use your sources for your paper.
Where did the information come from? Did it come from an authority in the field?
Authority should be judged on both the author and the publisher of the material
Generally, you can assume that known publishing houses, university presses, and professional organizations will publish quality materials.
How reliable is this information source? Can you trust and believe it?
Reliability is directly related to Authority, but does address different issues. Reliability in this context relates to the accuracy and treatment of the information.
Keep in mind that while .com sites might provide valid information, they are probably more interested in selling something. How reliable is this information source? Can you trust and believe it?
Objectivity or Bias
Bias is not necessarily a bad thing; we all have our own opinions and biases. But you should be aware of them, and take that into consideration when looking at an information source. The National Rifle Association of America and The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence will both give you accurate facts and statistics, but the way they are presented - the bias of the source - will present very different information.
How old is this information? Is there newer information available?
Is the information the most complete available? Is it comprehensive? Who is it written for?
After all is said and done, does the information source answer your questions? Does it "fill your information need?"
While the other criteria are based on facts, things you can see or find out about your information source, this one is a total judgment call. You must know what information you need, what type of information source you need it to come from, and what you will be using that information for (a final term paper, a short composition, your personal knowledge or information, etc.).
You must make the judgment as to the relevancy of your information source. Is the information source relevant to your information need?
It is entirely possible, and highly likely that you will find an item which is very reliable, from a very authoritative source, very current, and very complete... but not relevant to your topic.
Currency: How current is the information? Is currency an issue for your topic?
Relevance: Is the information relevant to your needs for your research?
Authority: Is the creator of the information a legitimate authority?
Accuracy: How trustworthy, truthful, and correct is this information?
Purpose: Why was this information created?