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Research Guides

Evaluating Sources

It is important to be critical consumers of materials we encounter.  You will break into small groups and will be assigned to review one of the links below.  As your group reviews you assigned link, discuss the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this particular resource?
  2. Is the resource current enough for your topic?
  3. Who is the author/sponsor of information provided?  What do you know about them?
  4. Does the creator of the content provide references or sources for any data or quotations used in the work?
  5. What type of audience is the author addressing, specialized or general?
  6. Is it a scholarly publication?  What criteria did you use to make your decision?
  7. Would you use this resource in your paper?  
    1. If yes, how would you specifically use it?  
    2. If no, what context might be better suited for this resource?

Be ready to share your answers to these questions with the class.

Critical Evaluation of Resources

Not all resources will be suitable or appropriate for your research. To help you determine whether or not to include a resource consider the following:

  • Scope. What is the breadth of the book, article, or other material? Is it a general overview or more specific and focused?
  • Audience. Who is the intended audience for this source? It is too technical? Too elementary?
  • Timeliness. When was this source published or updated (in the case of a Web site)?
  • Scholarly vs. Popular. Scholarly resources are written by experts for experts. These sources are peer reviewed*, have extensive bibliographies, and often contain areas for further research.
  • Authority. What are the academic credentials of the author? What has he/she written?
*Peer Review

Peer review is a process whereby a group of experts in the field review an article for content, scholarly soundness, and academic value before it is accepted for publication. Note that this process is different than in-class peer review, in which students read and critique each other's papers.

Savvy Information Consumers: Evaluation Information

Scholarly vs Popular Resources

It is important to know the difference between a scholarly journal and a popular magazine.  The following guide (NC State) provides tips on how to identify one from the other:

Helpful Links