Understand your assignmentFind Background InformationIdentify KeywordsRefine topicControlled Vocabularly
Search StrategyFind BooksLocate and access BooksFind ArticlesFind WebsitesFind other sources (grey literature and conference proceedings)Find full-text articlesFind different media, formats and social media
Evaluate SourcesPrimary vs. Secondary SourcesTypes of Periodicals
ParaphrasingNotetaking
PlagiarismTurnitinReferencingCopyrightReference management tools
Bibliographic elementsHarvard (Stellenbosch) examples A-ZOther Referencing StylesUse responsibly: Why cite and reference?
This is the "Evaluate Sources" page of the "Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide" guide.
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Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide  

Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide
Last Updated: Jun 17, 2017 URL: http://libguides.sun.ac.za/StepbyStep Print Guide RSS Updates

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Criteria for Evaluating Sources

When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.

Consult the Google and Google Scholar Libguide for guidelines on evaluating websites. 

Criteria Questions to Ask

Authority / Credibility
The credibility of an author is important in deciding whether information is reliable. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.

  • Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
  • Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
  • Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
  • Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?

Accuracy
The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.

  • Can facts or statistics be verified by another source?
  • Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
  • Has the information been reviewed before publication?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

  • Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
  • To what extent does the source answer your research question?
  • Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
  • Is the content and the language used at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g. classic literature) while others (e.g. technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
  • When was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been updated recently?
  • Is currency pertinent to your research or will older sources also work?
Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 
  • What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?

Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

  • Is the source well-written and organized?
  • To what extent is it professional looking?
  • If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
  • If it is a website, are links working?
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