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last updated: 4/4/2013

Evaluating Information

Finding information is only one step in the research process. The following criteria may help you evaluate your information source.

Date of Publication

Your research topic and assignment will help you to determine the currency of information that you collect. Current information tends to be more important for scientific topics, while subjects in the humanities may require older information.

  • When was the source published?

  • Is current information important for your topic?


Further editions demonstrate that a source has been updated to reflect new information, and may be a standard source in the field.

  • Is this a first edition?

Title of Journal

This is an important indicator of the complexity and authority of the information. (see Scholarly, Popular and Professional/Trade Journals )

  • Is this a scholarly or popular journal?

Intended Audience

Consider the intended audience for this resource. If the source is difficult for you to read and understand it may not be useful.

  • Is it aimed at a specialized or general audience?

  • Is the language difficult to understand?


Collecting sources relevant to your topic is important when writing a paper or giving a speech.

  • Does the source contribute to or support other information you have found on your topic?

  • Is this a primary or a secondary source?

  • Does it add to what you already know?

  • Does it provide a new or useful perspective?

Content Analysis

Is the content appropriate for your information need?

  • Examine the source.

  • Read the preface, scan the table of contents and the index to get an overview of the source.

  • Check to see if the source includes a bibliography. A bibliography will help point you toward other resources on your topic.


Consider these factors and then decide if and how you would like to use this authors work in research.

  • What are the authors' credentials, or background in this area?

  • Has your instructor or other scholars in the discipline mentioned this author?

  • Has this author written other articles, papers, reports or books on this same topic?

Objective vs. Biased

Depending on your information need, you may find the information unsuitable of it is biased or too general.

  • Is the information fact or opinion?

  • Does the author attempt to remain objective?

  • Is the information supported by other research or has this author provided sufficient evidence?

Writing Style

The style of writing may help you to decide the credibility of the author.

  • Is the source logically organized?

  • Are the ideas clearly presented?

  • Is the text easy to read, or is it choppy and difficult to follow?

  • Is the author statement or argument repetitive?

Post Evaluation Tips

Based on your evaluation, you may decide to not use some of the sources or find additional sources. Don't get frustrated. The purpose of writing papers, speeches, and projects is for you to learn. Research is just part of that learning process. It is possible that you may have to use several library resources or formats of information to get the information you need. The best thing to do is allow yourself plenty of time for research and ask for help from a librarian or your instructor if you run into any problems.


Ask a Librarian

Need additional help? For further assistance with any topic you can always Ask a Librarian.

last updated: 4/4/2013