Finding resources is only one step in the research process. Once you find information resources, it is critical that you evaluate the sources to be sure they are credible and authoritative sources to use to support the central arguments or factual claims you make in your in your paper or projects.
Librarians at SDSU put together a number of resources to help you analyze and evaluate the information sources you find. Here is information that will help you think about information resources in order to better evaluate their credibility for your paper and projects.
The following information was adapted from SDSU Library’s Evaluating Information page: http://library.sdsu.edu/reference/research/evaluating-information
Once you have found information that matches the topic and requirements of your research, you should analyze or evaluate these information sources. Evaluating information encourages you to think critically about the reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, point of view or bias of information sources.
Just because a book, article, or website matches your search criteria and thus seems, at face value, to be relevant to your research, does not mean that it is necessarily a reliable source of information.
It is important to remember that sources of information comprising the Library's print and electronic collections have already been evaluated for inclusion among the Library's resources. However, this does not necessarily mean that these sources are relevant to your research
This does not necessarily apply to sources of information on the Web for the general public. Many of us with Internet/Web accounts are potential publishers of websites; most of this content is published without editorial review. Think about it. Many resources are available to help with evaluating web pages.
What criteria should you use to judge information sources?
Initially, look at the author, title, publisher, and date of publication. This information can be found in the bibliographic citation and can be determined even before you have the physical item in hand.
Next, look at the content, e.g. intended audience, objectiveness of the writing, coverage, writing style, and, if available, evaluative reviews.
Think about these things to get started evaluating:
To help with this, the following questions should be asked:
Who is the author (may be individual or organization) and/or publisher?
What can be said about the content, context, style, structure, completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the source?
When was the information published?
Where else can the information provided by the source be found?
Why was the information provided by the source published?
An initial evaluation of books and articles can be done by examining their bibliographic citations provided in library online catalogs or article databases, containing brief author, publisher and date of publication information. Once you have found the book or article, look for additional information about the author(s) or publisher. If little or no biographical information is provided about the author(s), ask a reference librarian for assistance. Librarians can also help you find book reviews, or you can take a look at our research guide to book reviews.
Ideally, websites will include the following elements which can be used in the evaluation process: