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Public Speaking: Evaluating Sources

This guide provides links to materials for topics appropriate for speeches and debates.

Evaluating Sources

Not every piece of information is appropriate, or useful, to a given research need.  Information is disseminated by various news agencies, publishers, authors, and individuals; therefore, the degree of suitability can differ depending on its source.  Sources should be carefully evaluated to determine their value, usefulness, and appropriateness before being used for a research project.

The evaluation process can begin by examining a bibliographic citation (the written description of an item, which may include author, title, date, publisher, web address, etc.).  Once an item is in hand, it can be evaluated more carefully. 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?  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?  private corporation?  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?

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?

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
Useability 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