Evaluating Research Resources
Evaluation is an important step as you collect resources for your research. The more credible your resources are, the more credible your own research will be. If you are supporting your own opinions with the opinions of others, you simply have a collection of opinions. Successful research depends on locating and using credible resources. The following criteria can be used to help guide your evaluation of resources: Author (Authority), Date (Currency), Title (Content), and Source (Publisher).
Print vs. Web
There are key differences between traditional text-based sources and digital sources of information. While some print-based works are available in digital format and searchable on the internet, much of what we see on the internet is not subject to quality standards. This affects credibility, yet the internet can deliver valuable, authoritative sources if we know what to look for: Authority, Currency, Quality, Bias, Relevance.
Consider the author(s) and their contributions to the field or concept.
Print: Authors with advanced education and multiple published works are often considered reliable, as are works published by credible organizations.
Web: The internet has no existing standards for publication or submission. It may be unclear who the author is, or the author may not be verifiable by more than one source.
Whether you are searching for historical facts or the most recently generated data, date of publication is important.
Print: Traditional print texts should be examined for publication date. The relevancy of data and information will be determined by the purpose of your search. Typically, current sources are considered most credible.
Web: As with print publications, date of publication should be determined. This may be unclear when using web-based sources; search for when the page was updated, and if additional sources are cited.
Author credentials, publication process, topic relevancy, and traceable sources may all influence quality of a publication or work.
Print: Print sources are subject to an evaluation process; this includes fact-checking, review and editing. Works are subject to standards to ensure quality, accuracy, and clarity.
Web: Standards for publication quality and accuracy do not exist; anyone with internet access can create information on the web. Some web-based sources are considered more credible, if they are operated by educational institutions or reputable organizations.
Consider the content through an objective lens; is there a particular perspective which dominates and affect research or data? Are a variety of perspectives presented? Is there a sense of persuasion towards one concept or another?
Print: Examine the organization funding the research or the publisher printing the work for "agendas".
Web: Since standards for factualness or authority do not exist, the purpose of the work or author intention can be unclear or misleading. Be wary of propaganda.
Topic relevance is directly related to search techniques, however one must delve deeper into the body of the work to determine the ultimate purposes and goals.
Print: The purpose, intention, and goals of any work should be clearly expressed. Examine your assignment topic(s) to discover the significance of the work's content for your assigned task.
Web: Your topic and assignment guidelines determine if web-based sources are appropriate. Determine whether popular or scholarly sources will be of greater value for your research.
Ohlone Library. (2009, November 24). Scholarly vs. Popular Sources [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAP1LeN5NCU
Each source should be evaluated for relevancy, credibility, and functionality within your assignment or project.
You may consider:
Hartness Library. (2012, June 22). Credible Websites? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFEwwG7rq0E