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This is a general guide for students of English. Please contact the librarian if you have questions.

Evaluate Your Resources!

You will encounter many resources, including booksarticles, and websites, however everything you find on your topic will not be suitable. How do you make sense of it all and evaluate its authority and appropriateness for your research?  Follow these guidelines:

Other Indicators

  • Suitability -- Ask youself these questions about the source.

Scope -- What is the scope the article, book, website, or other material? Is it a general work that provides an overview of the topic or is it specifically focused on only one aspect of your topic? Does the breadth of the work match your own expectations? Does the resource cover the right time period that you are interested in?

Audience --  Who is the intended audience for this source? Is the material too technical or too clinical? Is it too elementary or basic? You are more likely to retrieve articles written for the appropriate audience if you start off in the right database. For example, if you need the latest information about marketing use and social networking, you may to use one of the General Interest databases, since this might be an interdisciplinary subject.

Timeliness --  When was the source published? If it is a website, when was it last updated? Avoid using undated websites. Library catalogs and databases always indicate the publication date in the bibliographic citation.

  • Authority

Who is the author? What are his or her academic credentials? What else has this author written? Sometimes information about the author is listed somewhere in the article. Other times, you may need to consult another resource to get background information on the author. This is when you can do a quick general web search in someplace like Google. If you find out the author has no credentials whatsoever, maybe the article is not a good choice. Among the Library sources available that list biographical information about authors and scholars are, Gale Biography In Context & Contemporary Authors (links below).

  •  Other Indicators

Documentation -- A bibliography, along with footnotes, indicate that the author has consulted other sources and serves to authenticate the information that he or she is presenting. In websites, expect links or footnotes documenting sources, and referring to additional resources and other viewpoints.

Objectivity -- What point of view does the author represent? Is the article an editorial that is trying to argue a position? Is the website sponsored by a company or organization that advocates a certain philosophy? Is the article published in a magazine that has a particular editorial position?