Evaluating Resources

It is essential that you critically evaluate all your sources, from books to Internet sites to periodicals to primary sources. You should always have a variety of sources in order that you can compare and contrast the information.

How should you evaluate your sources? Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is the source credible?

Your goal is to choose authoritative sources, sources that supply good evidence that allows you to trust it. Some of the questions you should ask: who is the author? Are there any credentials or qualifications given? Who is the publisher? If the answers indicate that the work was done by a reputable scholar or organization, then the information is more likely to be credible. If the site is anonymous, or the tone is biased, or there are many spelling and grammatical mistakes, red flags should go up.

2. Is the information accurate?

Your goal is choose sources that are correct and up-to-date; sources that give you the whole truth. Be sure that the information is detailed, exact and comprehensive. Avoid sources that are out of date or only give one side of an argument.

3. Is the source objective?

The source should be fair and balanced and should avoid a conflict of interest. For example, you should be wary of an article on the dangers of smoking that is written by a tobacco company, or for that matter written by an attorney suing the tobacco industry. They may be accurate but their objectivity is in question. Key indicators of a lack of reasonableness are intemperate tone (“stupid jerks”), over-claims, or sweeping statements of excessive significance (“this is the most important idea ever conceived)

4. Is the information supported?

The goal is to find sources that provide convincing evidence for the claims made, one that can be corroborated. See if other sources back up the claims, does the author cite his sources? Be sure to distinguish between facts and opinions.

Remember: Citing sources strengthens the credibility of information.