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Library Research Skills for Land and Food Systems

Evaluating sources

When you are reviewing a print or electronic information source (e.g. book, pamphlet, popular article, scholarly article, webpage), it is important to evaluate both the bibliographic details (e.g. author, publication date) of the information source and the content of the source. 

 

Use the following list of criteria to assist you in evaluating any source of information

 

 

Authorship
  • What are the author's credentials and who are they affiliated with?
  • Who wrote the piece of information? (e.g. journalists, scholars/researchers, non-profit organisations, corporations, government bodies)
  • Has your professor mentioned the author or source? Is he or she an expert in a particular subject area?
  • Is there a way to contact the author or source to ask questions about the information presented?
  • Was the information source published by a scholarly press or academic department?
Accuracy:
  • Has the information source gone through an editorial process? In the case of scholarly publications, this would mean that the article has been peer-reviewed.
  • Based on what you already know about the topic or from reading other sources, does the information seem credible?
  • Does the author cite other sources in a bibliography to support the information presented?
  • Are statistical or numerical data presented in graphs or charts, and if so, do they appear complete and labelled clearly?
Currency: Is the publication date of the information source clearly stated?
  • Hints:
    • Articles: Look for the publication date of the journal in which the article was published.
    • Books: Look for the copyright date on the page following the title page.
    • Web Sites: Look at the bottom of the webpage for the date of last revision (e.g. last updated 12 November 2002). If the source is presenting the results of a research study, has anything been published more recently that contradicts the results of the study?
Objectivity:
  • Is the information free of advertising? If not, are the ads clearly separated from the content?
  • Does the information source display a particular bias or perspective? Or is the information presented factually, without bias?
  • Is the author(s) of the information source clear and forthcoming about the author's view on the subject?
  • Does the information source contain any inflammatory or provocative language?
Purpose:
  • What is the primary purpose of the source? Some questions to ask in your effort to ascertain the primary purpose of the source:
    • Does the source seek to inform or entertain?
    • Does the source seek to promote a viewpoint?
    • Does the source seek to sell products?
    • Does the source seek to report on original research or experimentation?
  • Who is the intended audience? Students, professors, researchers, the general public?
Scope:
  • Is the information presented on your subject comprehensive?
  • Is there any new information presented? Or, does the author review past research?