Guidelines for Eval Info_2010

The argument, information, project, etc. on which you are working is only as strong as the
evidence you bring to it. Your writing or presentation takes on the character of your sources.
If you use unreliable sources, your own paper will be unreliable and unbelievable. To be
believable to your reader(s), you must bring to your paper the opinions and research of
experts. Such sources are written by the experts themselves or rely on expert opinion/research
for their content.
These criteria can help you determine the usefulness of a source you’re considering using for
your research project:
Accuracy ~ Is the information reliable and error free? Is there an editor or someone who verifies/checks
the information? Is it peer-reviewed? Is there adequate documentation: bibliography, footnotes, credits,
quotations? Are the conclusions justified by the information presented?
Authority ~ How did you find the source of the information? Did you use an index or references from
other works? What type of source is it? Sensationalistic? Popular ? Scholarly? Is the source of the
information reputable? What are the author’s qualifications? staff reporter? scholar in field? What is the
reputation of the publisher?
Objectivity ~ Does the information show bias? What is the purpose of the information? -- to inform?
persuade? explain? sway opinion? advertise? Does the source show political or cultural biases? Do other
sources provide other viewpoints?
Currency - When was the information published? Is it current? Does currency matter? Does it reflect
the time period about which you are concerned?
Identify the type of information you require for your research. All types of publications may be useful
for different purposes, but scholarly journals are often required for college-level research.
Written by journalists, often unidentified, who may consult with experts.
Coverage of current events, current-interest issues and activities, often broad in treatment, easy
to read and aimed at a general audience. Usually includes significant amount of advertising,
illustrations, and may be attractive and entertaining.
Rarely includes references to other works.
Can be a source of useful background information, particularly when there is little other
information on a topic available elsewhere.
Examples: The Boston Globe, Ebony, Esquire, Jet, The New York Times, Newsweek, People, Psychology Today,
Sports Illustrated, Time, U.S. News & World Report, Vogue.
Note: To determine the political stance of a newspaper or an opinion magazine, stop at the 4 th floor
reference desk where a librarian will direct you to the most recent edition of Magazines for
Libraries (NY: Bowker).
Fall between popular and scholarly periodicals.
Intended for the educated reader, but not necessarily the scholar.
Opinions or viewpoints on cultural or political affairs, usually with particular bias.
Good for comparing points of view. Look at a review of the same book in both The Nation and
The National Review to see wide differences of opinion.
Examples: The American Spectator, Christianity Today, Dissent, The Nation, National Review, New American,
New Republic, New Statesman and Society, The Progressive, Spectator.
Have authors that are identified experts and professionals.
Often contain reports of original research.
May be “peer-reviewed” or “refereed,” meaning the articles have gone through a critical
selection process by others in the field. Look in the inside front cover for a list of reviewers
(editorial board).
Have introductory abstract, list of references or a bibliography.
Considered primary source material if presenting results from the author’s research.
Are published or sponsored by a professional society or association.
Examples: Clinical Social Work Journal, College Literature, Critical Inquiry, Eighteenth-Century Studies, The
Explicator, International Journal of Aging & Human Development, Journal of Management Studies, Lancet, The
Review of Contemporary Fiction, Studies in Twentieth Century Literature.
Written by engineers, technicians, and trades-people for peers working in the same industry or
Scope is usually narrow, with the intent to address policy issues or to share
information related to the field.
Frequently graphics and related product advertising included.
Useful for profession or industry news, related government regulations, market data, product
development information, employment opportunities, and calendars of related events.
Examples: Appliance, Beverage World, Drug and Cosmetics Industry, Forest Industries, Power Engineering,
Purchasing, Supermarket Business.
Note: Be aware that these journal categories are somewhat arbitrary. Use your own critical skills
to distinguish between editorials, letters, reviews, and research material, regardless of the
category of journal in which the work appears. Ultimately, you must determine whether the
material is relevant to your research.
 Information from the Web requires more scrutiny than print sources to determine
its reliability.
 The same principles of print-source evaluation (see page one) apply to electronicsource evaluation.
 The line between research and entertainment is much less clearly drawn on the Web
than on print resources.
Sponsored by an organization attempting to influence public opinion.
The domain is usually .org.
Sponsored by a commercial enterprise, usually trying to promote or sell
products. The domain is usually .com.
Purpose is to present factual information. The domain is often .edu or
.gov, as many of these pages are sponsored by educational institutions or
government agencies.
Primary purpose is to provide extremely current information.
The domain is usually .com.
Individual home pages are usually for the promotion of individuals, their
ideas or their work, which may be entertaining, informative, or effectively junk.
Domain can be a variety of endings (.com, .edu, .net)
The end of a Web address identifies the type of sponsoring agency. Here are a few of
the most common domains:
Business / Commercial sites
U.S. Educational sites
U.S. Government sites
U.S. Military sties
Network site
Non profit organization site
It is especially important to use your critical thinking skills when evaluating Web sites.
Here are some questions to consider:
Is it clear who the author/publisher is of the site?
What credentials does the author claim to have?
Can you contact the author via a feedback button? Is there a link to a
local home page?
What is the author’s objective in producing the document? Sales or
advertising? Self-promotion? Lobbying? Public information?
Are there obvious errors of grammar or spelling?
How current is the site? Are links maintained? How recently has it
been updated?
Highly Selective List of Search Tools
Bare Bones 101
A Basic Tutorial on Searching the Web
UC, Berkeley Library
Finding WebSites
Internet Public Library: Information You can Trust!
Search Engine ShowDown
The User’s Guide to Web Searching
UTexas, San Antonio Library
Intenet 101: Untangling the Web
Harvard College Library
A Scholarly Guide to Google
Adapted from:
 Widener University Library,
 Ithaca College Library,