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Research 101: Evaluate Sources

A guide to help you develop good research skills!


 

Critical Evaluation

Evaluation Standards
Apply to all types of information in any format - print or online.

Since anyone can publish on the web, which leaves a huge range of quality in web information resources, you must be doubly careful when evaluating websites for research. 

Wikipedia, for example, is not a scholarly resource, because:

  • There is no author listed for the entries,
  • It often treats subjects more superficially than is needed for a college course, and
  • The review process is not as comprehensive as a peer review.

"Wikis"
Websites like
 "Answers.com," etc., are usually considered inappropriate sources to use for college level work.

To determine if a particular site should be used in your research, consider the information on this page.

How to Evaluate Sources

Are your sources credible and useful? Don't fall into a T.R.A.A.P.

Don't Fall into a T.R.A.A.P.

How do you make sense of available information and know what to trust? You'll find many types of resources as you research, such as: books, articles, newspapers, and websites. It is crucial that you evaluate all resources for relevance and credibility. Use the T.R.A.A.P. criteria to evaluate the credibility of all sources. The following list is not static or complete. Criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation and the resource.
 

Timeliness: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or too out-of-date for my topic?
  • Are all the links functional or are there dead links?*
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
  • Does the information relate to my topic or answer my question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too simple or advanced) for my needs?
  • Did I look at a variety of sources before deciding to use this one?
  • Would I be comfortable using this source for my college research paper?
Authority: The source of the information.
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (.com .edu .gov .org .net*)?
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information.
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed by anyone else?
  • Can I verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased? Or is it free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, typographical, or other errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
Key: * indicates criteria is for Web sources only
This is a modified version of a document created by Sarah Blakeslee at Meriam Library, CSU Chico.


 

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