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Evaluating Your Sources

Types of sources are books, journals, and magazines - both online and hardcopy - along with websites, interviews, documentaries etc…

When selecting a source for research, general items are important for initial evaluation:

  • Publisher: Who is the publisher of the article and are they highly regarded and trustworthy on the topic?
  • Author(s) Credentials: What do you know about the author(s) and their qualifications on the topic? Are their qualifications listed?
  • Purpose and Audience: Why was the source created and who is the target audience?
  • Bias: Does the publisher or author state an opinion on the subject and does the bias affect the accuracy of the information?
  • Evidence: Does the source provide valid evidence that includes statistics, examples and/or expert testimony?

Periodicals - Scholarly Versus Popular

Periodicals are sources that are published daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, such as newspapers, magazines and journals found either online or hardcopy. Many of these can be found in the IIT Research Databases.

Scholarly periodicals are written by professionals in the field and may be original research or an extension of previous research with a list of references at the end. These periodicals are reviewed by peers or other experts in their field who suggest revisions by the author before final submission for publication.

Popular periodicals are magazines and newspapers that are not as in-depth as scholarly ones. Authors may or may not be included and although these articles are reviewed for accuracy, they are not reviewed by peers or experts in the field. Typically, these periodicals focus on an area of interest, such as Business Week focuses on news and Glamour focuses on women's fashions. They are intended for the general readers.

Information on the Internet

The Internet provides a plethora of information, some good, and some bad. Four ways of analyzing information on the Internet are to understand the credibility of the author, the author's knowledge of the literature, the publishing body, and accuracy & verifiability of the information (Munger). Below are questions to ask yourself as you review information on the Internet.

Authorship

  • Do you recognize the author's name?
  • If not, does the site link to a reputable site?
  • Does the site contain biographical information to suggest the author is qualified on the subject?

Knowledge of Literature

  • Does the author appear knowledgeable about the major literature in the field?
  • Is there a bibliography?
  • Are there notes or links throughout the information?
  • Accuracy & verifiability of information
  • Is the site well constructed?
  • Is the information written well?
  • Are the claims supported by specific, appropriate evidence?

Accuracy and Verifiability of Information

  • Is the information timely and up to date?
  • Was the document created or updated recently?
  • Does the document rely on recent data?

Source

Munger, Roger. "Evaluating Online Sources." Bedford/St. Martin. 04 Jul. 2009

Conducting Research  Evaluating Your Sources  Plagiarism and Avoiding It