Not all information is created equal. Just because you find information at the library does not guarantee that it is accurate or good research. In an academic setting, being able to critically evaluate information is necessary in order to conduct quality research. Each item you find must be evaluated to determine its quality and credibility in order to best support your research.
To evaluate a source consider the following:
- Who published the source? Is it a university press or a large reputable publisher? Is it from a government agency? Is the source self-published? What is the purpose of the publication?
- Where does the information in the source come from? Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Is there a list of references or works cited? What is the quality of these references?
- Who is the author? What are the author's credentials (educational background, past writing, experience) in this area? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources or bibliographies?
- Is the content a first-hand account or is it being retold? Primary sources are the raw material of the research process; secondary sources are based on primary sources.
- When was the source published? Is the source current or out of date for your topic?
- What is the author’s intention? Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Is the language free of emotion-rousing words or bias?
- Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to read? Is the author repetitive?