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Thomas Library

Evaluating Sources

On this page: Evaluating Intention | Relevance | Reliability


INTENTION

WHY was the source created?

People create information sources, like web pages, books, articles and videos, for many different reasons. The trustworthiness of information may be affected by the motivation of the person or group sponsoring the source.
  • What purpose does this serve? Information, entertainment, profit?
  • What does the author get out of it? A laugh, a job, joy?
  • What does the purpose tell you about the reliability of the information?

What OPINION does this source represent?

Every source represents somebody's opinion, but some are more opinionated than others. It is important to be aware that the information you find is representative of the author's point of view. Even "facts" are really "someone's idea of what the facts are." Be sure to think about whether or not you trust the information as it is presented.
  • What point is emphasized by the source? Is it reasonable?
  • Is the tone more reasonably objective or more fanatical?
  • What is conspicuously missing (if anything)? Are there logical errors, or issues left obviously alone for no apparent reason?
Remember, you need to get everyone's point of view. If all of your sources represent the same opinion, you may have a problem.

RELEVANCE

WHEN was it created?

Some fields of study don't change much from one week or year to the next; but for others, old information may be worthless or even damaging to your project.
  • Can you tell?
  • Have they ever changed it?
  • Does it matter?

RELIABILITY

WHO created the source?

  • Can you tell? Does anyone claim authorship?
  • Who do they work for? What are their credentials?
  • Have you ever heard of them? Name recognition is important here.

How GOOD is the information?

  • How does the information fit in with what you already know?
  • Is the source well-edited for spelling and grammar?
  • How much does the source rely on graphics to distract you from the text?

How WELL-DOCUMENTED is the work?

  • Is there a bibliography?
  • Do the sources in the bibliography seem scholarly?
  • If they cite websites, do the links work?