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Evaluating Sources: Home

Welcome

Use this guide for thinking about how to evaluate web sites -- and, really, any other type of resource you find. Use these criteria:

Currency

  • What is the date of publication (for articles, books, etc.) or last update (for websites)?

For Websites:

Why ask?

  1. Is currency important for your topic? (think US Civil War vs. Genetics)  - if yes, than the date is significant
  2. If a date is provided on a web page, it's likely to indicate the most recent update of the page

Authority

For Websites:

Why ask?

For Articles and books:

  1. Articles and books written by experts in their fields are more likely to be authorative, accurate, and reliable.
  2. Reputable publishers, such as academic presses, have an interest in promoting knowledge rather than a particular point of view or agenda.

For Websites:

  1. Anyone can publish anything on the web.
  2. It's often hard to determine a web page's authorship.
  3. Even if a page has an specified author, qualifications are not always provided.

Accuracy

Why ask?

For articles and books:

  1. Articles and books that include a works cited list or bibliography usually confirm the accuracy of the content (and can give you ideas of other articles to read on your topic).

For websites:

  1. Anyone can post anything on the web.
  2. Unlike traditional print resources, web sites rarely have editors or fact-checkers.
  3. No web standards exist to ensure accuracy.

Relevance

  • What topics are covered?
  • What does this article/book/page offer that is not found elsewhere?
  • What is its intrinsic value to your research need? Does it help you prove your thesis or answer your research question?
  • How in-depth is the material?
  • Why is this material helpful to you?
  • What information does this page offer that is not found elsewhere? (e.g. Why would you use this material instead of something else you've found on your topic) 

Why ask?

For articles and books:

  1. If the article or book doesn't really address your topic, should you use it?
  2. If it doesn't provide you with substantive information, how important is it for your project?

For websites:

  1. A web page may look nice, but it might not provide any good substantive information on your topic.
  2. Sometimes web information is "just for fun", a hoax, someone's personal expression that may be of interest to no one, or even plain, outright silliness. 

Purpose

Why ask?

For Articles/Books:

  1. Figuring out why the author is writing the article or book will help you determine if the source is biased and how reliable the information in it is
  2. If the author is promoting a particular point of view, you may still be able to use the source, but you will need to acknowledge its bias

For Websites:

  1. You need to be aware if a website is trying to convince you of a point of view
  2. In some cases, advertisers may affect the content of a web site
  3. If a site is biased, you may still be able to use it, but you will need to acknowledge its bias

Acknowledgement

This page was adapted from the New Mexico State University Library "Evaluation Criteria" page at http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalcrit.html, created by Susan E. Beck