Answered By: Claire Sewell
Last Updated: Feb 23, 2016     Views: 96

It is essential to evaluate your sources. This is important not only to make sure the information you have is relevant for your research needs, but also to make sure that it is suitable to use for academic purposes. Below are some questions that you can ask yourself when evaluating a source.

  • Is it relevant?  
    • What is it about? – Obviously, the title of the article or book will give you a clue to what the source is about. You may also want to look at the abstract, which gives a summary of the article, the introduction or the article or chapter headings.
    • What is the subject area focus? Knowing what discipline an article comes from can help you decide if the article is relevant. If the article comes from a scientific journal and you are studying a social science subject you may not find it relevant.
    • Is it at the right level? – Is the information in your source detailed enough for your purposes? Who is the intended audience?
  • Is it suitable?

A practical way of evaluating whether information is suitable is to consider where it comes from and how it has been produced.

  • Who has written, produced or published the information? – Is the author a known academic, or are they affiliated to a reputable institution? Has the article or book been published by an academic publishing house?
  • Why have they written it? – Has it been written for a particular reason (to inform/sell/persuade)? Can you detect whether there is any bias?
  • When was the information written or published? – Is it still useful, and is it likely to be updated?

You can also check how 'scholarly' a source is by assessing whether the source has been peer-reviewed or gone through an editing process. Does the author provide evidence to support his or her ideas or views? Are there accurate references to other sources?

You should feel confident using a source as part of or in support of you research. If you are in any doubt about its relevance or suitability, then check with a librarian or your tutor.