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Evaluating Sources: Evaluation Criteria

Evaluating Sources

Sources should be carefully evaluated to determine their value, usefulness, and appropriateness before being used for a research project.

 Here are some things to consider.

  What to look for Where to find it
 Suitability

 Scope and depth: How much information is provided?

 Audience:  Who is it written for?  The general  public?   Specialists?    Students?

 Point of view: Is the information fact-based?

  Opinion-based? Is it  biased?

 Writing style: Is the language easily understood?  Too technical? 

 Look for clues about suitability here:

  • Introduction or preface
  • Review sources
  • Abstract or summary
  • Home page of website
 Timeliness

 Time frame: Is it appropriate to the topic?  Is it the most current information on the topic?

 Edition or version: Has the material changed from a previous publication?

 Look for clues about timeliness here:

  • Back of title page in book
  • Cover of periodical
  • Home page of website
 Credibility

 Authority: What is the background, education, or credentials of the authors?

 Affiliation: Are the authors associated with a university? A private corporation?  A government agency? Non-profit group?

 Experience: Is the author considered an authority in the field?  Is he or she a working professional?  Has he or she published other resources on the topic?

 Publisher:  Is the publisher well-known?  Is it a university press?  Is it a vanity press? Is it self-published by the author?

 Look for clues about credibility here:

  • Book jacket blurb
  • Biographical sketch of author
  • Publisher's website
  • Book review sources
  • "About Us," "For More Information," from website
 Accuracy

 Is the information correct?  Can it be corroborated from other, independent sources?

 References: Are the sources cited that were used to create this item ?

 Look for clues about accuracy here:

  • Compare against other sources on the same topic
  • Look for a list of references, works cited, or bibliography
 Usability  What features does the source offer? Is there a table of contents?  Index?  Illustrations?  Appendices?  Notes? Bibliography?

 Look for clues about suitability here:

  • Physically examine the item