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When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.
||Questions to Ask
Authority / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.
- Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
- Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
- Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
- Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?
The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.
- Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
- Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
- Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.
- Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
- To what extent does the source answer your research question?
- Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
- Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
|Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
- When was the source written and published?
- Has the information been updated recently?
- Is currency pertinent to your research?
|Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased.
- What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?
Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.
- Is the source well-written and organized?
- To what extent is it professional looking?
- If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
- If it is a website, are links broken?
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- What audience is it trying to reach?
- Is it scholarly or popular?
- Is there advertising?
- Can the author be identified?
- Is there contact information available?
- What is the domain? .edu, .gov, .org, .com?
- If connected to an organization, what is their mission?
- Are there references?
- Are there statistics?
- Does the site have any typos?
- When was the site published? Is there a created date?
- Does the site indicate when last updated?
- Are there dead links?
- Does the site present many opinions or facts?
- Is the site sponsored? By a company or organization?
- Is the advertising clearly separate from the content?
- Is the site easy to understand?
- Is the site easy to navigate?
- Is there a table of contents or site index?
- Does the site offer a search box?
- Do the graphics add to or detract from the site?
- Is this site a well-documented source of information from a reputable author or organization?
- Would this be a good source of information for a research paper?