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Research Process: Evaluate Information

Adapted from a 2002 Sonoma State University Research Process tutorial, Red Deer College LibGuide, and Big6.com

Identify Scholarly Sources

If you are able to recognize the differences between a popular and scholarly source, you can focus your research to retrieve only the type of information you need.

Peer Review

Peer review is a process in which an article is screened and evaluated by a panel of experts before it is published.

Peer reviewed journals are also sometimes called "refereed" or "scholarly" journals.

Evaluate the Information

  • Establish authority.
    • Who is the author? What are his or her credentials for writing on this topic?
    • Is the author working and writing under the auspices of a particular organization or agency? It is a credible organization?
    • Is the article or resource peer-reviewed?
  • Determine scope of the work.
    • Is the work geared to a particular audience or level of expertise?
    • Is it comprehensive or does it cover a narrow aspect of the topic?
    • Does it use specialized language or is it easily comprehensible?
    • Does it cover a limited region, time period, group of people?
    • Is the primary purpose to provide information? to sell a product? to make a political point?
  • Evaluate accuracy and relevance.
    • Can factual information be verified through footnotes or bibliographies to other credible resources?
    • Are charts, tables or data clearly identified and attributed to their source?
    • Are the source, scope and date of any statistics clearly labeled? 
    • Is it clear whether or not the information as been excerpted from a larger piece?
    • Is there a way to tell if this is the most recent version of a particular piece?
  • Recognize bias and/or point-of-view.
    • Is there a particular bias or perspective? Is the item clear and forthcoming about its view of the subject?
    • If the item contains advertising, are the ads clearly distinguishable from the content? Is the content driven by ad placement?
    • Reject misleading information or poorly documented information.
    • Apply the same criteria standards to all materials - print and electronic.
  • Determining if you have enough information.
    • Is it often hard deciding when to stop looking for information sources. Here are a few questions to help you decide if you have enough material. 
    • How long is your paper?
    • What is the focus of your paper?
    • Does the information you have leave you with any unanswered questions? Have you answered the who, what, where, when, and whys?
    • Do your sources present only one point-of-view?
    • Will the inclusion of any other information (charts, graphs, image, one more article, etc.) change your paper from being just OK to being outstanding?

Learn More

             Short video tutorial from the Jean and Alexander Heard Peabody Library at Vanderbilt University.

             Tutorial from UC Berkeley Library.
             Information to help you determine if your source is peer-reviewed from Thompson Rivers University Library.

Creative Commons License
Eva B. Dykes Library Libguides by Oakwood University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.