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​Getting Started with Research

A guide to help with the essentials of library research

Evaluating Sources

Checklist for Evaluating Sources

Reliability

Is the information presented accurate and dependable? One way to help determine the reliability of an item is to compare the facts with other documents on the same topic to check supporting facts or data.

Credibility

What are the author’s credentials? Is the author an expert in the field?

Validity

Know where the information is coming from. Is the work based on personal opinion, original research, laboratory experiments, or other documentation? From what sources were the facts gathered?

Perspective

Be watchful of author bias, especially when looking for objective accounts. Consider the author’s cultural, political, social, and economic background.

Timeliness

Check the date of publication. Are you looking for contemporary materials (sources which originated near or at the time of an event, idea or phenomenon)? Are you looking for a current account of an historic event?

References

References or a bibliography can give you an opportunity to check the item’s validity, and they can also provide you additional resources on your topic.

Purpose

Why was the item written?

The purpose can range from dissemination of information about an important study or research project, to the insight of a specific group of people, to propaganda.

Intended Audience

Who is the target audience? Children, laypersons, scholars, professionals? This is often reflected in the author’s writing style. Is this appropriate for your purposes?


Source:  Davis, Dell M. (1996). Evaluating resources. In Empowering students; hands-on library instruction activities (Marilyn P. Whitmore, ed.). Pittsburgh: Library Instruction Publications.