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Evaluating Sources  

Tips for evaluating the credibility and appropriateness of print and web sources.
Last Updated: Oct 1, 2014 URL: http://libguides.uah.edu/evaluate Print Guide RSS Updates

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Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Learning how to quickly determine the relevancy and authority of a given resource for your research is one of the core skills of the research process.

Evaluating a research source can begin even before you have the book or article in hand. The bibliographic citation of a work is a written description of a book, journal article, essay, or some other published material. Generally they contain three main components: author, title, and publication information. By careful examination of these parts, you may determine whether the source will be useful in your research. Once you have determined whther a source is pertinent to your subject, then you may check the library catalog and online databases for the material.

Evaluating What You Read: Questions to Ask

Who wrote it?
Who published it?
Why was the article or book written?
For what audience was it written?
What is it about?
Does it succeed?

Look at the Book
Look at the Journal Article
Look at the Website

Who Wrote It?

•What are the credentials of the author? (Education background, personal/professional experience...)
•What else has the author written?
•What is the author's reputation?
•If this is an edited collection, what are the qualifications of the editor or the contributors?

Some books, journals, or websites include the author's information. The library's resources include both print and online materials to research an author, such as Contemporary Authors, and Who's Who. If these do not provide enough information, book reviews sometimes offer author information within the review. Book Review Digest and Book Review Index are found in the Special Collections area (LL).


Who Published It?

•What type of materials does the publisher normally handle?
•What is the publisher's reputation?
•Is the work self-published or on a commercial Website or developer?
•Is the work published by a subsidy or vanity press?
•Is the journal scholarly, peer-reviewed, or refereed?


Why Was It Written and Published?

•Is the author's purpose clearly stated?
•What makes it necessary and important or different from other works on the topic?
•Do other research materials cover the same information just as well or better?

For What Audience Was It Written?

Who is the intended audience?
•Specialists in the field?
•Students?
•General public?
•Educated public?
•A special group (a business group or political party, for example)?
Is it written in a way that is appropriate for its intended audience?

What Is It About?

•Is the subject as advertised?
•Is it accurate?
•Is it complete?
•Is it biased or one-sided?
•Is the information supported by other authors or researchers?
•Is it easy to understand?

Does It Succeed?

•Does it cover the necessary information?
•Is it interesting and well-written?
•Does it have appropriate illustrations and graphics (maps, tables, etc.)?
•Does it offer information not found elsewhere?
•Is it important (or interesting or entertaining) enough to justify spending the time to read it?

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Look at the Book

•How is it arranged?
•Is it easy to find the information you need? (Table of contents, Chapter titles, Index....)
•Does it have a preface or introduction to explain its purpose?
•Does it provide helpful supporting materials? (Glossary, Character lists, Tables, Time lines, Maps, Illustrations...)
•Does it include references or a bibliography for additional research?

Look at the Journal Article

•How is it arranged?
•Is there a definite thesis statement?
•Is the body of the article informative?
•Is it easy to find the information you need?
•Does the author's conclusion support the thesis statement?
•Does the author include references and/or a bibliography?
•Are footnotes provided?
•Does it include helpful supporting material? (Maps, Illustrations, Photographs, Charts, Tables...)

Look at the Website

•Is the URL an educational, commercial, or government site or an individual's homepage?
•Does the site or page give author information?
•Is it kept current and is the information timely?
•When was it last updated?
•Is the information credible and reliable?
•Does the site have a biased opinion or promote a specific viewpoint?
•Does it sell products?
•Does the site offer an email address or FAQ page, if you have questions or reservations about the content?
•Does it document or copyright the material?
•Is it easy to find the information you need?


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