The Research Process
Evaluating Your Sources
This section of the guide will cover the seventh step in the processs:
7. Evaluate Your Resources
Ask yourself whether the source is appropriate for your assignment. Is it scholarly? Is it reputable? Does it fit any requirements your professor has set out with regard to sources, such as a requirement that sources be peer-reviewed?
Scholarly Resources & Peer Review
“Information is literally everywhere. We have the ability to create and share information in a split-second and send it out to the world. That information can be shaped and packaged in different ways based on how the information was created. What can the package, or format, tell us about how the information was created in the first place? ” – Created by Oklahoma State University
We also have a guide to scholarly materials, popular materials, and trade materials.
Who Do You Trust? Why?
“We all do research, but how do you decide who to trust or what information to accept or leave behind? Context, authorship, and evidence help you determine authority, trust, and reliability. Here are some ways to ensure that you are getting the best information possible when researching.” – Created by Oklahoma State University
Evaluation Tips & Tricks
Check out our Evaluating Sources, Evaluating Websites, and Fake News guides for useful tips on evaluating websites.
Consider the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose of your source. Consider in particular the author or organization behind the website, their level of expertise, and any potential biases.
Consider the type of information you’re looking at. Is it a news article? A report from an organization? An opinion piece? A blog? If it is a book, who is the author and who published it? Was it published by a university press? Is it fiction or non-fiction?
Google Scholar Metrics lists top publications based on citation indexing. You may also want to ask your professor or advisor what the best journals are in your field.
If you are unfamiliar with a journal, see if you can find a website for the journal, and look for an “about” page. This page should give you some general information about the journal, information on how to contact the journal, and may include metrics for the journal, as well as a mission statement.
Determine whether the journal you are looking at is peer-reviewed. Peer review, discussed in the videos on this page, is often a good indicator of academic quality.
Librarians can also help you track down the best journals and the best article databases in your field and help you evaluate a journal or article for quality.
Evaluating an author can often be critical to determining whether a source is scholarly or reputable, and whether it is appropriate to use in your source.
Consider the author’s credentials. Does the source have an about the author section? If not, does it at least tell you what organization(s) the author is affiliated with? If so, consider finding the author on the organization website. Verify that he or she works there, and their credentials.
Have you heard of this author before? Perhaps your professor has mentioned them, or you are consistently seeing their name in citations or your results list when you search for journal articles. Have they been frequently cited by others? If you’re looking at an article in Google Scholar look at the “cited by” link to see how many people have cited it, and see in what contexts it has been cited.
Overall, don’t be afraid to investigate the author and his or her reputation and level of expertise.