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Evaluating sources

Relevance

Questions to ask

  • Is the information related to your research topic?
  • ​Is it an in-depth examination or a quick summary?
  • Who's the intended audience? (The general public, a student, researcher or industry?)
  • Is the level of information too basic or advanced?
  • Is the content appropriate for your level of study?
  • In what context was the information written?  (E.g. where and when was it written?  Why was it written?  What was the intended audience - general readers, experts, academics?)
  • Is this information part of a more comprehensive source? If so, who abridged it and why?
  • Is it original information, or information reproduced from another webpage or print publication?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?
  • Is some information limited to fee-paying customers?

What to look for on a webpage

  • The information is appropriate for your level of study - this can vary depending on the context (if you are studying media portrayal of an issue, popular information sources can be appropriate, however if you are looking for in-depth analysis from an academic perspective, these may not be suitable).
  • The author and sources cited are acknowledged.
  • The information is thorough and not merely a summary of surface information.

What to look for in print material

  • The information is appropriate for your level of study - a book aimed at school students or the general public may not be appropriate.
  • The information is not beyond your understanding or aimed at someone with a much higher level of understanding of the topic.
  • It was published by a reputable publisher and is ideally the most recent edition.
  • The information is not a summary of another information source that may be more appropriate for your research.

It is a good idea to check your lecturer's guidelines to ensure that you are covering all aspects of the topic that you need to research.

For more information about the research and writing process check the resources available at Academic Skills.

For help in accessing and using Library resources ask a librarian at the Information Desk in any of the on-campus library buildings.

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