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Research Process: A Step-by-Step Approach: Step 3 - Evaluate

Guide to help students familiarize themselves with the research process and useful library tools.

Evaluate

Read & Evaluate Sources

Timeliness (When)

Ask:

  • When was the resource created or last updated?
  • How up-to-date is the information?
  • Is the date of material appropriate for your research?
  • Has the author written more recent information on the topic?
  • Are the statistics and data current enough for your topic

How to verify

  • Most articles are dated
  • Look at website footer for a copyright date
  • Visit the homepage of site if web search takes you to internal page for newer content
  • Search the author's name in a web search to see if updated information or article available

Reliability (Where & How)

Ask:

  • Can you determine the source of the information provided on the page?
  • Can you tell how the research was done to provide the information?
  • Can you verify the information presented using another resource?
  • Is the information written for a public or scholarly/academic audience?

How  to verify

  • Check bibliography, if available, by randomly searching for a sample of references to ensure same content as included in your resource.
  • Check hyperlinks
  • Compare the content with what you already know or have seen in other resources
  • Are credentials or an "about" page available to provide more information about creator?

Authority (Who)

Ask:

  • Who is responsible for the content of the page?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Does the site include contact information?

How to verify

  • Look for "About" page on website for more information
  • Search the author using a search engine to confirm authority on subject and background
  • If no author given, look for sponsoring company/organization and search for more information.

Perspective & Purpose (What & Why)

Ask:

  • What is the purpose of the source?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Why was the source created?

How to verify

  • Finding out more about the author or sponsoring company should provide sense of purpose of source.
  • As you read, is the language used relate more to a general audience or to someone with specialized subject knowledge.
  • The more ads on a page suggests a commercial purpose, which may indicate a bias.
  • As you read, content presented should feel balanced and impartial.