Evaluating sources is 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?
There are many things to consider when determining if a source is reliable. This chart tells you what to look for in your sources.
A few things to consider when evaluating a source:
Content/Coverage - The content should be consistent with what other experts in the filed are saying and be written in a style that is appropriate for the audience it is intended for (general public, other cholars, etc.) The item may also give new information about a topic.
The Author - Who wrote the item and what are their credentials? They might be content experts or journalists covering a topic. The level of knowledge in a field that the author posesses influences the content of the source. Also check for the Publisher of a source - is it from a government agency, university press, or other reputable source.
Reviews - Find out what others are saying about the source by locating reviews of the book (try Proquest, Academic Search Premier or JStor). These are often written by others in the field who could speak to the accuracy and appropriateness of the source.
The Date - Is the date of the item appropriate for your topic? In some fields information changes rapidly making older publications less useful. This could be true for medical or scientific topics. For historical topics, items published during the time period or that are seminal (an important work in the field that influenced later developments) are appropriate. Don't simply disregard an item because it was published in the 1980s - it might be the prefect source!
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