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Evaluating Sources: Evaluating sources

An overview of evaluating sources, including strengths of different source types.

Evaluating Sources

Database searching now makes determining if an article is "scholarly" much easier because you can filter a search to give only scholarly resources, taking much of the guess work out of the process.

Nevertheless, evaluating sources is still a crucial step in the process of library research.  Whether you're looking at a web page, citation, a physical item or an electronic version of a book, article or review, ask yourself the same questions. Is it a useful, reliable resource for your specific research need? Why?

Checking for Reliability

There are many things to consider when determining if a source is reliable.  This chart tells you what to look for in your sources.

Evaluating books

When evaluating a book, look for these:

The date - how old is the book, has newer information be published since this book was published? In some fields, especially the sciences, information changes rapidly making older books less useful.

Edition - If a newer edition has been issued, the information in the book may be outdated.

Publisher - Books published by university presses tend to be scholarly. Also, pay attention to a trend in commercial publishers; many publishing houses tend to focus on specific disciplines, for example, Wiley publishes many books on science topics.

Content/Coverage - Look for updates or new information in other sources about the topic

Writing style - The book should be organized logically, look for an index or table of contents. Chapters should include references and citations to sources. 

Author's credentials - The author's credentials and professional affiliations should be clear and obvious.

Reviews - locate reviews of the book (try Proquest, Academic Search Premier or JStor) to see what others in the field thought of the book.

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Interlibrary Loan:
If you need an article that Canisius does not own or one we only have in print, place a request 
through our Interlibrary Loan Service. We can borrow materials for you from libraries across the country or scan articles we own here.