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English and Writing Resources for SUPA Instructors & Students: Evaluating Resources

Guide to Evaluating Sources

Just because your resources came from the Libraries' collections and databases doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach every source critically. This chart contains a variety of questions that you should ask yourself when evaluating books, periodicals, and web sites for use in your writing.

  • Authority: Who wrote this? Are they qualified to make these claims?

    You should check the author of your information source. Anonymous works should be considered suspect until you can verify the author's claims in other works. If an author is listed, you should investigate the author's credentials within the subject area of the work.

  • Currency: When was this published? How does that relate to your topic?

    In most cases, the date of publication for your source is important. Unless your research specifically focuses on a specific time period, you should check to make sure that there is not more up-to-date or accurate information available.

  • Validity/Accuracy: Are the claims made in the source supported by others? Are they cited?

    Never use factual information that is not supported with a citation, unless you can find another source to verify it or that information is widely recognized as common knowledge.

  • Audience: For whom was this work intended?

    You should always be aware of the intended audience of your source. This will help you understand why the information is presented a certain way.

  • Point of View: What is the perspective of the author or publication?

    It is important to consider the perspectives and biases that are communicated in a source. An awareness of point of view can help to guide your research toward other points of view that you may have missed.

Scholarly vs. Popular

With print resources, there are often visual indicators that can help readers determine the nature of a publication. In an online world of full-text, sometimes these indicators are stripped away and it can be more difficult to determine the focus, audience, and purpose of a work. The images below demonstrate some of the differences in presentation of the same topics in scholarly and popular periodicals.

 

Here are a few options for helping your students to examine their sources:

  • Most databases allow for users to sort by format and type-- search results can be limited to newspapers, peer-reviewed journals, or magazines.

  • Bring some print publications of various sorts into the classroom and (perhaps using the chart on this page) have students discuss the characteristics of each, and ways they can identify similar characteristics in the electronic versions of these publications.

  • Talk with students about the variety of types of online publications and apply the same evaluation criteria.

HTML vs. PDF

In most databases in this research guide, articles are available in two formats-- HTML and PDF. The illustration below highlights some of the differences among the two formats.

 

Subject Specialist

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Patrick Williams
Contact:
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222 Waverly Avenue

Syracuse, NY 13244

315-443-9520

Materials for Teaching Information Literacy

  • Assessing Periodicals
    This three-phase chart breaks down different types of periodicals, their characteristics, and the reasons they are produced.

What about Wikipedia?

 

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