Skip to Main Content

Library Research Tutorial

Evaluation of Sources

 Once you perform a search and locate a resource on your topic, you will need to determine whether it is worth including as a source for your research. This is called evaluation. When you find a resource in the NIC library, you can examine its database or catalogue record for more information about the resource. Criteria to consider as part of the evaluation process include:

  • Authority: What are the authors’ credentials? Are they affiliated with a particular educational institution or organization? Not all databases include this information; it may require a web search to locate this information. Has the resource been peer-reviewed to ensure it meets the standards of that discipline and provides credible information?  
  • Objectivity: Is the article's subject treated objectively? Do you detect any bias? Is the article based on fact or on opinion?
  • Coverage: What is the scope of the coverage? Is it a summary of published works or an in-depth reporting of original research? Does it provide any new information? Who is the intended audience? Is the article too specialized or too general for your purposes?
  • Relevance: Is the article relevant to your research? Is it based on primary or secondary sources? Is this article clear about what is being said? Is it easy to follow, and does it provide conclusions? Is the publication date current, so that you know the information is up to date or relevant to the time period being discussed?
  • Accuracy: Are other sources referenced to support what is being said? Have the authors put their research in context with that of others in the field? Are there charts, graphs, or other supporting documentation?

These criteria are equally important to evaluating scholarly resources (i.e. peer reviewed journal articles) as they are to evaluating websites, books, and other resources. Remember: always check your assignment guidelines for instructions on which type(s) of resources should be included as a source in your academic paper. 

Consider the mnemonic device IF I APPLY on the next page to help you remember the right questions to ask when evaluating a resource.