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BIOL 101: Evaluate Sources

Evaluate Information

Evaluating information is an important part of the research cycle. It is common to get a large number of search results. As you look at your results, consider the guidelines for your assignment. Use the filters to ensure you're finding appropriate resources. See the Find Sources page for more help with filtering.

As you refine the search results, you will generally review more articles or media sources than you will eventually use. How do you choose the best information from the sources for your research? What are the criteria to evaluate a selected source via the web or journal publications?

In scanning the contents of the results, the title, publication source, year, and abstract or description often provide key information to help you decide if the material would be helpful in addressing your research question.

The major elements that are applied to any type of source evaluation include currency, authority, credibility, purpose, objectivity, writing style, and relevance.

Research Skills & Tips:

There are different types of journal articles for various audiences and purposes:

  • Scholarly articles (also called peer-reviewed articles) are high-level research on a narrow topic written by experts in the discipline. 
  • Newspaper and magazine articles report on a specific event or topic. 

Scholarly articles are often long and technical. Not all journal articles are appropriate for academic assignments. Review the research skills and tips below to learn how to distinguish between scholarly journals and popular magazines and choose which articles to use for your project.

Research Skills & Tips:

Anyone can put information online. The web contains everything from useful information to misleading information, advertisements, news, entertainment, advocacy, and even propaganda and fake information. 

How can you tell if the information you find online is credible?

Qualities of Good Scholarship: clear, well-written, calm and objective tone, balanced and reasoned presentation, accurate presentation of facts, all sources are documented.

Qualities of Poor Scholarship: poor grammar or misspellings, sweeping generalizations, uses emotional appeals, excessive claims of certainty, biased information, no author affiliation or contact information, no documentation of sources.

Research Skills & Tips:

Evaluate Sources

"Evaluate Sources." Stack of folders.

To ensure the quality of your research, think critically about whether the sources you selected are credible, reliable, and relevant for your research goal. 

Consider the evaluation tips on this page, and assess each article, book, website, or other source that you find.