All sources are not equal and the choice and quality of the sources you select to include in your research paper are as important as your grammar and organization. Therefore, it is always necessary to use your judgment or critical thinking skills to evaluate the information you are gathering during the research process. This is especially important when using material from the internet. When deciding whether a source is credible or not, you must first decide what you need, what type of source you need, and then apply a guideline on how you are going to evaluate whether the source can be used for your research.
How will you to determine whether a book, website, article or other source is sufficient for academic research for your college-level assignment?
This module will guide you through that evaluation process.
Use a Criteria to Evaluate Sources
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Evaluation Criteria for print sources
All sources are not equal and the choice and quality of the sources you select to include in your research paper are as important as your grammar and organization. Therefore, it is always necessary to use your judgment or critical thinking skills to evaluate the information you are gathering during the research process. This is especially important when using material from the internet.
Books, magazines and other materials available in the library or from digital resources provided by the St Johns River State College Library have been chosen and purchased by academic librarians who are information professionals. The evaluation process has been done for you. Using the Library digital resources assures that the evaluative process has been done. Our collection of resources has been through the publication process where they are reviewed by editors and fact-checkers before they are published.
When selecting a resource on your own, it is especially important use a set of guidelines or questions about your source to guide your evaluative process.
Relevance & Coverage
Does this pertain to your topic?
Is this important to your topic?
Will this support your thesis statement?
What is the depth of the coverage? Detailed or skimmed the surface?
Who is author? A good source to use
Are the authors credentials listed?
Is there contact information like an email address or social media contact?
Accuracy & Verifiability
Are there references to check validity?
Is the data available on claims made?
Can you verify the information in an independent source? (Like population data from Census.gov)
Bias & Objectivity
Is this author expressing their opinion as fact?
Are they trying to sway your viewpoint?
Is it an editorial opinion?
What is the purpose of the information? Teach/ entertain? Sell? Persuade?
Currency & Timeliness
When was this written?
Is the information dated?
When was the information revised?
Is the date of the information relational to the source?
Scope & Depth
Does it have breadth? Broad in scope
Does it have depth? Intense in scope
Intended Audience & Purpose
Who is this written for?
What are they accomplishing by writing this?
Please note: There are no such standards for publication on the Web. With a minimum of knowledge and equipment literally anyone can publish anything on the Web.
There are, however, a number of strategies that can be employed to make sure you collect only reliable, quality material for inclusion in your paper.
Recommended Web Pages
If you are looking for Web sites to use as sources for an academic paper, it is a good idea to begin with sites that have been recommended by your Library, instructor or other skilled professionals. There are many digital resources that can link you to Web resources that have been pre-selected by professionals that are skilled in information evaluation. It is crucial, however, that you develop the ability to evaluate sources on your own; so let's go over some guidelines.
Evaluation of Web Sites
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Evaluation Criteria for Internet sources
Long before the Internet, standards for evaluating the reliability of information were developed. The traditional standards can be adapted to any resource, including online resources:
Can the information given be verified by other sources?
Are there spelling or other obvious errors that indicate less than scrupulous standards of publication?
Has the information been reviewed by professionals in the field of study?
Who is the author of the information?
What are this person's qualifications for writing on this subject?
Is the Web site sponsored by a reputable organization?
What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information? Example: .gov or .edu or is it a commercial site? .com
What are the aims and goals of the author?
Is the material biased or presented to persuade the reader to adopt the writer's point of view?
If the site is sponsored by a particular organization, are the goals and views of that organization presented clearly?
What does the domain name /URL reveal about the source of the information?
When was the website published?
Are links functional and up to date?
Is there evidence of newly added information or links?
To what depth are the issues explored?
If some aspects of the subject are not discussed is the reader told?
These standards should be used by the researcher only as a guide to the reliability of the information presented. A "No" answer to a single criterion does not automatically render the information unreliable. Used in an overall context, however, these criteria can be good indicators of quality sources.