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Evaluating Information Sources

Use this form as part of the in-class activity on Evaluating Sources.

Evaluating Information Sources

Deciding which resources to use for your academic research can be challenging. 

There are a variety of factors that you can use to determine the appropriateness of a source for your research need. Authority and usefulness are contextual, so each time you work on a new project you have to assess each source’s fit to your needs. Learn more about authority here: ACRL Framework: Authority

Understanding Citations in Databases

Just because you found the citation to a resource through the library, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t evaluate its appropriateness for your research!  The brief descriptive entries in databases and catalogs are meant to accurately describe and summarize sources so that you can begin to assess their value to your information need.

What elements are available? What do they tell you about the source?

  • Author(s)
  • Title
  • Source (if this title is part of another title, ex: journal title, book title)
  • Date
  • Publisher information
  • Length
  • Type of source (periodical article, academic article, book chapter, video, etc.)
  • Editorial processes used (edited, peer reviewed)
  • Author credentials/contact info
  • Subject terms/keywords of content
  • Summary/abstract of content

Citation information can tell you a lot, but you will need to look at the full text of the resource to gain a deeper understanding of its usefulness to your research need.

If you information resource was found on the internet and not in a research database you might not have metadata (citation information) providing the above categories of information about the source. Instead you will need to review the information on the site carefully to look for things like author name or credentials, dates, publishers or sponsoring organizations, or any editorial or peer review processes. 

Class Activity