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Evaluating sources


Questions to ask

  • Does the information appear to be truthful and correct?
  • Can you verify the information by checking at least two other sources on the same topic?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and objective?
  • Has the information been peer reviewed or refereed?
  • Are there any spelling, grammatical, or other obvious errors?
  • Where did this information come from?

What to look for on a webpage

  • Check the title, the section headings, and the opening paragraphs to see if a person or organisation is named as being responsible for the content of the webpages. Keep in mind that the webmaster or person who designed the webpage is not necessarily the one responsible for the content of the page.
  • Check what other groups this organisation is linked to. Are they reputable?

If you can't find any information about the author on the page you're looking at, then you can go back in stages to the home page. Delete from the end of the URL backwards to the first slash mark ("/") and press Enter on the keyboard. If you still don't see any information about the author, back up to the next slash mark. Keep going until you come to the site's homepage.

What to look for in print material

  • Check the book cover blurb and look for information about the credentials of the author.
  • Check for references; in journals look for information about the credentials of the editorial board (if there is one).
  • Ensure the book has an extensive reference list and that you can verify at least two of these references.

Why use a library database?

Why use a library database rather than Google? ANU Library databases are more likely to provide you with relevant information of a scholarly nature that is appropriate to University level research projects.

Library databases:

  • generally contain high-quality information
  • contain peer-reviewed articles
  • contain articles by known authors
  • contain scholarly information
  • are subject-specific
  • support refined searching.

The free web:

  • is not quality controlled
  • is rarely peer-reviewed
  • doesn't always list authors' names
  • contains mostly popular (non-specialised) information
  • has limited search capabilities.

Responsible Officer: University Librarian/Page Contact: Library Systems & Web Coordinator