Critical Evaluation of Information Resources
There are many types of resources that you may encounter when conducting research: books, articles, Web sites, etc. How do you assess the usefulness of resources for your own research needs?
• Critical Evaluation of Web Resources
1. Is the Resource Suitable for My Research?
- Does it provide a basic overview of my topic? Does it place my topic within the context of a larger subject area?
- Does it cover a time period that I am interested in?
- Is the article too basic or elementary for my needs? Is it too specialized or technical for my needs? Who is this resource geared towards?
- When was this resource published? Do I need the most current information or analysis on this topic, or is older information appropriate for my needs?
2. Is the Information Authoritative?
- Who wrote and/or published this resource? What credentials qualify him to write on this topic? What else has he written?
- Do I require scholarly information, or is more popular material also appropriate?
|Purpose/Content||Disseminate new research and theory. Extensive detail of theory, methods and research tools.||Inform and entertain the public. News, opinion pieces, general interest stories.|
|Audience||Academics, postsecondary students. Assumes subject expertise.||General public. Subject expertise not generally expected.|
|Authors||Scholars (PhDs, faculty, curators, etc.).||Reporters, journalists.|
|Accountability||Peer-reviewed.||Editor, fact checkers, journalistic ethics.|
|Appearance||Plain, articles with abstracts & bibliographies, only graphics necessary to elucidate a point, little advertising.||Eye-catching, many pictures, often substantial advertising.|
|Publisher||Scholarly society, university, or specialist commercial firm.||Commercial.|
|Access||University libraries. Generally indexed in index specific to its field (e.g., Philosophers Index).||Newsstands, individual subscribers, public libraries. Reputable publications indexed by general purpose indexes (e.g., Expanded Academic)|
- What sources does the author cite to back up her points? Is a bibliography included with the information?
- If the information relies heavily on statistics, where did those statistics come from? Were they gathered in a methodologically appropriate manner? Were they pulled from another reputable source (e.g., Statistics Canada)?
- Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Is the author trying to advance a particular position? Is there a clearly supported argument or is the argument inflammatory and unsupported? Is the publication or organization providing the information known for having a particular philosophical or political position?
5. Primary vs. Secondary Sources
|Original Research.||Evaluation or overview of previously presented material.|
|A journal article that presents new findings and new theories.||A scientific review article.|
|A newspaper account written by a journalist who was present at the event he or she is describing.||An encyclopedia entry.|
Last updated: August 5, 2014