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3. Evaluate What You've Found


Evaluating the authority, usefulness, and reliability of the information you find is a crucial step in the research process.

How To Critically Analyze Information Sources:
8 things to look for when evaluating what you've found


Initial Appraisal

1. Author

  • What are the author's credentials — educational background, past writings or experience? Is the article written on a topic in the author's area of expertise?
  • Has your teacher mentioned this author? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note the names that appear in many different sources.
  • Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization?

2. Date of Publication

  • When was the source published? The date of last revision for online articles are usually at the bottom of the home page, sometimes every page.
  • Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic? Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in English often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources online now note the hour and the minute that articles are posted on their site.

3. Publisher

  • Note the publisher. If the source is published by a University press, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable does not guarantee quality, it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the source being published.

4. Title of Journal

  • Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas.
  • Ask a Librarian if you need help determining the types of journals.
     

Content Analysis:
Examining the body of the source

          5. Intended Audience 

  • What type of audience is the author addressing? Is the publication aimed at a specialized or a general audience? Is this source too elementary, too technical, too advanced or just right for your needs?

6. Objective Reasoning

  • Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? It is not always easy to separate fact from opinion. Facts can usually be verified; opinions, though they may be based on factual information, evolve from the interpretation of facts. Skilled writers can make you think their interpretations are facts.
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Assumptions should be reasonable. Note errors or omissions. 
  • Are the ideas and arguments more or less in line with other works you have read on the same topic? The more radically an author departs from the views of others in the same field, the more carefully and critically you should scrutinize his or her ideas. 
  • Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Is the language free of emotional words and bias?

7. Coverage 

  • Does the work update other sources? Substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information? Does it extensively or marginally cover your topic? You should explore enough sources to obtain a variety of viewpoints. 
  • Is the material primary or secondary in nature? Primary sources are the raw material of the research process. Secondary sources are based on primary sources. 
    Explore our collections of primary sources on our Resources page.

8. Writing Style 

  • Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to read, or is it stilted or choppy? Is the author's argument repetitive?

 

See also: Evaluating Resources, an excellent guide from U.C. Berkeley.
                 Internet Resources for Research Papers by Mr. Chubb (College & Career)