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How Do I...Evaluate Information: Criteria for Evaluation

Criteria for Evaluating Information Sources

When considering whether or not to use a particular source or information, there are some important questions to keep in mind.

Authority

  • Who is the author of the work?
  • What are his or her qualifications for writing on the topic?
  • Consider education, employment history, relevant experience, current affiliations, and publication record.
  • Who is the publisher?
  • Is the publisher a trade publisher, university press, scholarly or professional organization, government agency, individual.
  • Has the research and/or publication been supported financially by a third party?
  • Is this third party a Government agency, foundation, or corporation?

Accuracy

  • Is the information presented factual and complete?
  • Is the source of the information well-documented?
  • Is the writing clear and free of spelling, grammatical, and typographical errors?
  • Has the document undergone prepublication editorial or peer review?

Timeliness

  • Is the date of publication appropriate for the research topic?
  • Are you looking for current events or historical information, or does it matter?

Scope/Coverage

  • What is the purpose of the document?
  • Is the purpose to present new research, inform, educate, entertain, persuade, sell, complain, etc.?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the intended audience Scholars in the field, undergraduates, general public, etc.?
  • How broad or focused is the range of topics covered?
  • Does the publication provide an introduction to the topic or an in-depth treatment?
  • What time period is covered?

Objectivity

  • Are all sides of the issue presented?
  • How might the author's bias affect the content?
  • How might the editorial policies of the publisher affect the content?
  • How might the mission of agencies providing grant support affect the content?
  • Are there advertisements in the publication?
  • Might the advertisers influence the content?