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Civil & Environmental Engineering Resources: Evaluating Information

Why Evaluate?

Once you've found information on your topic, it is important that you evaluate the information to make sure it is considered "good quality."

Since anyone can publish on the web, you simply cannot believe everything that you read. In addition, different types of publications are intended for different audiences and different purposes. When you are doing research, it is important to critically evaluate each source to determine who is publishing it, what is the purpose of the publication, and whether or not it includes accurate information.

 

Research Process

Use the library's Research Process: Getting Started to learn more about finding, evaluating, and citing sources.

Guide to Evaluating Sources

This chart contains a variety of questions that you should ask yourself when evaluating books, periodicals, and web sites based on five main criteria.

Criteria Questions to Ask Yourself When Evaluating:
Currency
  • What is the publication/creation date?
  • Does this time period meet your information need?
  • When was the last update?
  • Are all the links up-to-date? (for web resources)
Authority
  • Who is the author? What are his/her credentials?
  • Has this author been cited in your other sources?
  • Who is publishing this information (individual, non-profit organization, commercial entity)?
Validity/Accuracy
  • Do other sources contain the same information?
  • Is evidence given to support the information?
  • Are other sources cited?
  • If the information is outdated, does it still accurately reflect the knowledge in the field?
  • Are there selection criteria given for the links to other pages and are the links relevant to the topic (for web resources)?
  • Is the site edited, or does it contain typographical errors (for web resources)?
Audience
  • Who is the intended audience (students, researchers, trade members)?
  • Is this source appropriate for your needs and understanding of the topic?
Point of View (Bias)
  • Does the source present the information from a particular bias or single viewpoint?
  • Does the information contain the facts or an interpretation of the facts?
  • Does the source contain assumptions or opinions that are not backed by research?
  • Does the sponsoring organization or site have a stake in how the information is presented?
  • Does the information contain advertising?

Popular vs Scholarly Sources

Popular Scholarly
Who wrote it? reporters or staff writers researchers, experts in the field with a known affiliation (university, research lab, etc.)
Who was it written for? general public other researchers or experts
How long is it? short, easily readable in a short period of time typically longer
How much detail? overview of topic includes data, graphs, charts, and analysis of that data
How do you verify info? publication's reputation cited works or bibliography in addition to publication's reputation
Where is accessible? grocery store, airport, bookstores, free websites library subscription, professional society literature

Your Librarian

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Emily Hart