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Evaluating Sources

We are all information processors.  Whenever we listen to a news report, talk to another student, read a magazine, or view a website, we are perceiving and processing information.  In this data-rich environment, we must learn to sift through the information and choose appropriate sources for our needs. Consider these questions as you evaluate information in print, audiovisual, or electronic formats.

Identify your information need
  • What information do you need?
  • What do you already know about the subject?
  • Do you want general or specialized information?
Evaluate the source of information
  • Is it a scholarly (written as a result of research conducted by the author), popular (written to inform the general public), governmental (published by a government department) or private (published by the author) source?
  • What are the qualifications of the author or producer of the material?
  • When was the information published?
  • Was the material reviewed or edited for publication?
  • Does the source show political or cultural bias?
  • Is there a resource list or bibliography included?
Determine if you can use the source
  • What is the scope and purpose of the work?
  • Is it objective?
  • For what audience is it intended: general public, students, professionals?
  • Does it contain the information you need?
  • Is the information current enough for your needs?
Evaluate the content
  • What is the author's purpose?
  • What facts and opinions are presented?
  • Are various points of view presented?
  • Is this a report of primary research: surveys, experiments, observation?
  • Is it a compilation of information gathered from other sources?
  • What are the major findings?
  • Are the conclusions justified by the information presented?
  • Does this work update, substantiate or add to the knowledge on the subject?
  • Do experts in the field agree on the findings?

These are questions to be generally considered as you view an information source.  Not all questions pertain to every source.  If you are considering a source, but feel you need assistance in evaluation, Ask AL!