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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.

Accuracy 


Evaluating a source by accuracy means that you are asking: Is the information provided correct?

When considering accuracy, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the source been edited or peer-reviewed?
  • Has the author supplied a list of references for their work? Does the list of references include scholarly sources?
  • Is the information provided verifiable? What does this source off compared to other sources?
  • Is the language or tone opinion based or does it contain facts and statistics?
  • Does the source include spelling or grammatical errors? Is the source logical, well organized, and professional in appearance?
  • Is the information crowd sourced or vulnerable to changes by other authors or non-experts (e.g. Wikipedia or another public wiki)?

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

 

Print & Database Sources

  • Read the source's reference list (if available)
  • Find out more about the publisher, journal, etc. via their websites, information provided with the source, etc.
  • Examine source in full text (PDF or original print is preferable) for errors, organization, opinions, etc.

Websites

  • If using an article or blog on a website, read the reference list (if available)
  • Look at the "About Us" section of the website to find out more about the website's author(s), affiliations, submission and editorial process, etc.
  • Examine the website and web pages you will be using for errors, organization, opinions, etc.

What to avoid

  • Sources that have no reference list and/or that have not gone through any type of editorial or peer-review process (unless you are seeking non-scholarly materials)
  • Sources with a lot of grammatical or spelling errors
  • Sources that are vulnerable to changes by other authors or non-experts (e.g. Wikipedia)
Accuracy Questions
Examples Questions To Ask
Current Employment Statistics
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Does the author cite sources?
A Brief History of Medical Marijuana
  • Is this an opinion site, or a straightforward and objective piece of information?
Smithsonian Institution
  • Is this site purely informational, or is it trying to sell a product (advertising)?