Skip to Content

Criteria for evaluation

The type of criteria you might want to apply include the following:

Author: Determine the expertise of authors by investigating their educational background, work experience, and other writings.

Date: The accuracy of your source may be affected by the date it was published. Some ideas once believed to be true were later disproved by new discoveries. The currency of a web page can be important. Information that changes frequently, such as stock quotes and news events, should be searched for on regularly updated pages. Some sites are not updated, such as personal pages or government reports, either because they contain information that isn't date dependent, or because the site maintenance is poor.

Publisher: Publishers may have their own agendas when they choose to publish books and magazines. For example, they may hire authors whose writing reflects the values of their publishing company. On the Web, larger organizations usually sponsor pages by providing space on their computers. When using a print magazine or journal, see if that periodical has a mission statement on the masthead or inside cover. When using a Web source, look for a logo or link back to the home page. Do advertisements take up a significant portion of the source?

Reviewers: Since you can't be knowledgeable about every subject, you may need to rely on the opinions of analysts and experts. These people have read many articles and books in their field and often have practical experience. Though you may not agree with their conclusions, using their experience will help you evaluate your sources. To find reviews and criticism you can consult with your instructor for their opinion or ask a librarian to help you identify the best types of sources based on your research question.

Content: You or your instructor will be able to determine best if a source is appropriate for your research. Remember that all sources you use should contain well-supported arguments and valid research. As it is easier to falsify information on the web, look closely at the sources you select online. A discussion on evaluating Internet resources will be discussed in further detail in the Internet search strategies section of this tutorial.

As evaluating information can be a complicated process and since so much available information can be inaccurate, fraudulent or biased, it is important to take the time to determine if the sources you find are appropriate, factual and verifiable.