Evaluating Sources

 

Suitability

What is the breadth of the source? Is it a general work or focused on one aspect of the topic?

Timeliness:

When was the source published or produced?

Type of Source:

Is the source scholarly or popular (especially important for articles)? Is it intended for a specific professional audience (trade)?

Primary vs. Secondary sources:

  • Primary sources present original research for the first time.
  • Secondary sources provide a compilation or an evaluation of previously published information.

Publisher:

Who published the source: a university press, a professional association, a trade association, a commercial publisher, a person, other?

 

Content Analysis

Author:

Who is the author and what are his/her credentials? What else has she/he written?

Audience:

Who is the intended audience of the source?

Objectivity:

What viewpoint does the author hold? Does she/he cover both sides of the issue?

Writing Style:

Is the source well written? Is it academic? If it is filled with jargon, is the jargon properly used?

Documentation:

Does the source provide footnotes or a bibliography of references?

Checklist for Evaluating Research*

 
Yes
No
1
Is there a clear statement of the research problem?
2
Are any sub-problems stated?
3
Is a hypothesis stated?
4
Is the report organized under appropriate headings?
5
Are the data analyzed and interpreted?
6
Is any indication given whether the hypothesis (es) is either supported or rejected?
7
Does the article refer to any related literature or supporting studies?
8
Are the conclusions clearly stated?
9
Are any further studies or needed research suggested?
10
Did you understand the research and comprehend what the researcher was attempting to do?
 

* Leedy, Paul D., Practical Research: Planning and Design, 5th ed., (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 22.

 

Evaluating Internet Sources

Look at the URL*:

  • What is the domain*? .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil, other.
  • Is the domain appropriate for the content?
     
    *  See Web Fundamentals if you are unfamiliar with this terminology.
Who published the page/site?
  • Is it published by an institution or might it be a personal page?
The author:
  • Who wrote the page? Is author's name provided?
  • Are there any credentials that indicate that the person is a qualified authority on this subject? How can you find more information about this person?
  • Is a way to contact the author provided on the page?
The page:
  • Does the page provide factual information or data, or does it provide second-hand information? Is the page well documented?
  • When was the page created or last updated? Are the links on the page still current?
  • Who sponsors the page?
  • What was the purpose in publishing this page/site? Why was it created?
  • Is there a bias? Does the page provide a balanced approach to the topic, presenting other viewpoints? Is anything obviously omitted?
  • Who links to it? How did you find it?

A helpful "Web Page Evaluation Worksheet" is available from the Library at the University of California, Berkeley (Adobe Acrobat format). This library has an extensive tutorial devoted to evaluating Web pages.

 

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