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Beginning Your Research? Start Here!

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Evaluating Information

There's a lot of information out there. How do you know if it's good to use in your paper? Once you find an article, book, website or other resource that you think might be useful, take steps to evaluate it, or make sure that it is up to the standards of your assignment.

When evaluating articles, it's important to know whether the article is scholarly or popular. What's the difference? Check out this table:

Scholarly Article Popular Article
Author: The authors are named and their degrees and/or job titles are included. They are experts in the subject. Author: The authors may not be identified, and if they are, it is only a name. Usually, authors are general reporters, not experts.
References: References and citations to other research is included throughout the article. It is very obvious where the authors got their information. References: There are no listed references or citations. Where the authors got their information isn't obvious.
Audience: Articles are meant to be read by experts in the subject or scholars (like you!). Audience: Articles are meant to be read by anyone.
Format: Articles are organized by labeled parts (literature review, methodology, results) and use a specific style (APA, MLA, AMA). Format: Articles don't follow any specific format.
Language: Because the readers are experts and scholars, the language is very technical. Language: The language is easy for everyone to understand.
Illustrations: Illustrations are tables, charts, and graphs that are used to explain the data in the article. Illustrations: Illustrations are photos and graphics that are used to catch the readers' attention.
Methodology: The authors conduct their own research or experiment and explain how they did it. Methodology: The authors report on other people's research and experiences.

 

When evaluating websites, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Authority. Is there an author? What do you know about him or her (job, academic degrees, expertise)? Is the author qualified to write about this subject?
  • Accuracy. Is it obvious where the author got the information used? Is it well-researched and cited properly?
  • Audience. Who is the intended audience?
  • Objectivity. Is there a bias on this website? Is more than one opinion presented? Does the author or organization that runs the website have anything to gain from this subject? Are they selling a product?
  • Currency. When was the information written and presented? When was it updated? Is it still timely?
  • Coverage. How comprehensive is the website? What is included? Is there something important that is not included? Are the links to other websites evaluated?

Below is a worksheet to fill out when you're evaluating a website. Feel free to use it as many times as you'd like!