Loyola University Chicago Libraries

Arrupe College: Evaluating Information

Evaluating Information Overview

What is source evaluation and why does it matter? 

You’ve probably been told “don’t believe everything you hear (or read)” before. It's important to think critically and to evaluate the sources you come across in your research. There are a number of questions and criteria you can use to help you evaluate information in order to sort out fact from fiction, and to figure out what information will be most helpful to you, whether you are researching something for school, work, or your personal life.

Evaluating sources tips

You'll want to consider a few areas when you evaluate your sources.

Is the information valid? Make sure the information you are using is truthful and accurate. If the information you are relying on for your research is faulty, your own research project won't be very strong.

Pay attention to bias: Bias basically means that the author or publication is taking a side in an issue. For example, if you're researching oil drilling and find a paper written by someone who works for an oil company, then that information may be biased in favor of drilling.

Remember: Bias is not necessarily a bad thing. You just need to be aware of whether or not your information is leaning one way or the other and be prepared to address that bias in your research. 

Is the information relevant to your own research topic? If the source doesn't fit into your research paper then it won't be very useful, regardless of how authoritative it is. 

Evaluating Your Sources

Here are some questions to get you started evaluating your sources.

Consider the following:

Currency

       Questions for websites:

  • Is the page dated? When was it last updated?
  • How current are the links?

      Questions for books and articles: 

  • Is there a more recent edition? When was the site last modified or updated?
  • Is the date of publication or copyright important for the timeliness of the content?

Relevance

  • Is the information relevant to your research topic and needs?
  • Is the information in-depth? Does it appear to be complete?
  • Does the page provide information not found elsewhere?
  • What topics are covered?

Authority

  • Who is the author? Is the page signed?
  • Is the author an expert?
    • Look for affiliated institutions, parent organizations, and funding sources.
    • Verify authors' qualifications with other sources like their other journal articles and institution web pages where they work.
  • Who is the publisher?
  • Is the publisher reputable?

Accuracy

  • Is the information reliable and true?
  • Can you tell where the information came from? Can you find the information elsewhere to verify it? 

Purpose

  • Why was this information published? What are the goals of the author and/or publisher?
  • Is there evidence of bias?
    • Not sure what bias is? Check out this resource for more information -
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information designed to sway your opinion or is it more factual in nature?

 

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