Often finding information is less of a problem than figuring out whether that information will be appropriate for your project. One way to decide whether a source is “good” for your project or not, is to begin by asking some questions about the source. Remember! Evaluation is a holistic process. One of these questions isn’t enough to determine a source’s usefulness. You need to take them all into consideration.
WHO created the source?
- What authority does the author/organization have to present on this topic?
- What are their credentials? Are they connected to the field they are writing about?
- Are they affiliated with any specific organizations? Could this impact their reliability?
- Is there contact information for the author or publisher?
WHAT is the purpose of the source?
- Is it informing? Selling? Entertaining? Persuading?
- Does the point of view appear to be objective or does it appear to be strongly biased?
- Is the language emotional pointing to a personal connection to the topic?
- Are any included images appropriate to the topic and clearly labeled or cited?
- If on a website: What URL does the site use and what does this suggest about the source?
- If on a website: Are the ads clearly separated from the information?
WHERE does the information come from?
- Does the source use evidence to support its claims?
- Are there any references? If so, are they appropriate to the topic and source?
- Is there a bibliography? If so, what kinds of sources are being cited?
- Can the information be verified with another source?
- Is the source presenting fact or opinion?
- Does the source contain spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?
WHEN was the source published?
- Has the information been updated or revised if necessary?
- Does your topic require very recent information, or will older sources be acceptable or even preferred?
- If on a website: Is a date given for when the information was posted?
- If on a website: Are there important links that are now dead or overall are they kept up to date?
WHY is this source useful to you?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the information at an appropriate level for your needs (i.e. not too simplistic/not too advanced)?
- Does the information help to answer your research question or develop your argument?
- Does the source add new information or simply repeat or summarize other perspectives?