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Shapiro Library

Evaluating Sources

This guide will provide you with information that you can use to critically evaluate sources including websites, articles and reports, books and ebooks, etc.

Relevancy 


Evaluating a source by relevancy means that you are asking: Does it answer your question or contribute to your research?

When considering the relevancy of a source, there are several things to ask yourself:

  • Is the scope of the source is appropriate for your research? Does the source provide a general overview of your topic or is it focused specifically on a single aspect of your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience for the source? Is the information too basic or too technical? Does it assume you have prior knowledge about the topic?
  • How many sources have you found? Have you searched thoroughly enough to find the most relevant sources available?
  • Does the source meet the parameters of your assignment? Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research project?

Where should you look to determine the relevancy of a source?

 

Print & Database Sources

  • Read the abstract, summary, or table of contents
  • Scan the full text of the source
  • Examine subject terms and keywords associated with the source
  • Look at sources beyond the first page of search results

Websites

  • Read the abstract, summary, or table of contents (if available)
  • Scan the full text of the source
  • Examine subject terms and keywords associated with the source (if available)
  • Look at sources beyond the first page of search results

What to avoid

  • Sources that provide minimal usable content for your research
  • Sources that provide content which is too broad or too narrow for your research
Relevancy Questions
Examples Questions To Ask
What is "global climate change"?
  • Who is the intended audience for this web site?
  • Does it include information that is too technical or too basic?
Foreign Affairs
  • Does this website assume you have prior knowledge about the topic?
  • Does it address a topic broadly or is it very specific?
How Stuff Works
  • Does this website offer a general overview of a topic or does it answer a specific question?
  • Would you feel comfortable citing this source in your research project?