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Guidelines for Evaluating Sources
For each source you consider using, evaluate these five key pieces of information to help you determine whether that source is appropriate for your academic research. (You might want to print this page as a reference or checklist.)
Determine whether the author is qualified to provide credible information.
- Who is the author of the information? Is he or she clearly identified? Are credentials or a biography provided?
- Is there a link to the author's home page or other contact information?
- Does the author have an academic or professional affiliation?
- Does the author's background suggest the possibility of bias in the information presented?
Identify the reason that this information has been posted.
- What is the purpose of the information? To inform? To argue for a position? To solicit business or funding?
- Who sponsors this information if it is a website? An academic or professional organization? A business? A publication? A government agency? A political action committee? A nonprofit institution or agency?
- Does the mission of the sponsoring organization suggest the possibility of bias in the information presented?
Determine how much effort has been made to verify the information and keep it up-to-date.
4) Intended audience.
- Is the site updated regularly? Can you find a date for the information on the site?
- Can you verify the accuracy of the information presented?
- How are sources documented? Is enough information presented that you could find and read the sources cited by the source?
- On what basis have the internal links been selected? Are these links current?
- Has the information been reviewed by experts in the field? Does anything in the publication allow you to determine this?
Decide whether the information is appropriate for the level of work you are doing.
- Who is the intended audience?
- What level of audience does the information appear to be written for (fellow professionals, children, college students, etc.)?
- If the site allows comments from users, whom are the comments from? How substantial do they seem?
- What other sources refer to/cite this article, book, website, etc.?
Evaluate how professionally the information is being presented.
- Is the information easy to use? Is the site easy to navigate?
- Does the source use correct and appropriate language?
Depending on your project, some of these questions will be more important to your evaluation than others. But answering most or all of them about any source you intend to include in your research paper or project is a good idea.
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