The credibility of your research depends on the credibility of your sources. First consider the kind of resource you are consulting. This will help you to assess the quality: a source that is written to provide factual information has different characteristics than a source that presents expert opinion, or makes a case for a particular point of view.
What is Its Purpose?
- Was it written to inform, or to report on research?
- Does it summarize a body of research and provide citations, or is it reporting on new, original research?
- Was it written to persuade the audience or to sell a product?
Who is the Intended Audience?
- Is it written for a general audience?
- Is it written for a scholarly or professional audience?
Now assess the credibility of your source using the following criteria:
- Is the information up to date? When was it published?
- Can the facts be verified?
- Is the information still current or valid for your topic?
- Are conclusions and opinions backed up by solid evidence?
- What are the author’s qualifications?
- What experience does the author have in the field?
- Is the author part of an organization, agency, special interest group or corporation that might present a particular point of view?
- Is the topic covered in depth?
- Does the work answer questions completely?
- When was the work published?
- Is the information still current for your particular topic?
- Is this information relevant to your area of research and your research questions?
- Can you find the information that you need from this source?
- Whose perspective on the topic or issues is included?
- Whose perspective on the topic or issues is excluded?
- Is there evidence of bias? (Note that opinion pieces are intended to express a particular bias: check whether opinions are backed up by solid evidence for these types of sources).
- Is there evidence of undue exaggeration, prejudice, over-generalization, or opinion misrepresented as fact?
Download your own source evaluation form:
Some sources are a bit trickier to check for credibility.
- Learn more about assessing the credibility of websites.
- Learn more about assessing the quality of Wikipedia articles.
- Learn more about assessing the credibility of blogs.
Check out this tutorial from Acadia University Library: Sources for Courses!