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Evaluating Resources: Introduction

Learn how to analyze resources for currency, reliability, authority, and purpose to find out whether they are suitable for use in your research.
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Welcome to the Evaluating Resources Tutorial

This tutorial will provide the necessary tools to help you learn the art of digging through today's mountain of information to uncover the nuggets of truth that will help you in your research.

On Research

Is this you? If so, you've come to the right guide. Keep reading!

On Research Comic

"On Research," Chainsawsuit comic, by Kris Straub, from Sept. 16, 2014

Questions to Ask Yourself

When evaluating a resource, especially if it is on the open web, ask yourself a few questions.

Who?

  • Who created this resource? Are they qualified to speak on this topic? What do they gain by providing this information?
  • Is this a primary source (original material), a secondary source (evaluation of primary material) or a tertiary source (collection of primary and secondary sources)?
  • Look for the "About Us" section or the author's name and contact information.
  • Verify the organization or author's credentials using an outside source.
  • Red Flags: Anonymous sources, lack of contact information, unqualified authors.

What?

  • What is the resource about? Does it have the information you need?
  • Are there a lot of advertisements? Is it trying to sell you something?
  • Red Flags: Questionable relevancy.

Where?

  • Where is the information coming from?
  • Where does the resource get its own information? Do they list references or outside sources?
  • Red Flags: Lack of references or sources of information.

When?

  • When was the resource created?  When was it last updated?
  • Look for dates of publication or last modification. On websites, do not rely on copyright dates, as these are often updated automatically.
  • Red Flags: No publication dates, outdated web links, reference to outdated information.

Why?

  • Why does this resource exist and how does that affect the information?
  • Look at the "About Us" or "Purpose" sections.
  • Determine what the purpose is, and choose only resources that are compatible with your information needs.
    • Advocacy: It is trying to persuade you to a particular viewpoint.
    • Informational: It has multiple references or viewpoints.
    • Marketing: It is trying to get you to buy or invest in something.
    • Entertainment: It is trying to entertain you.
  • Red Flags: Obvious bias or conflicts of interest.

How?

  • How accurate or credible is the resource? How is it presented?
  • Examine references and bibliographies.
  • Verify information in another reputable source.
  • Avoid resources with errors in spelling and grammar. This should make you question the accuracy of other information.
  • Red Flags: Grammar and spelling errors, lack of peer review, inaccurate content.

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