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General Library Research Tutorial

Fundamental concepts and vocabulary used in library and information research.

B. Evaluation Criteria

Evaluation Criteria
 

Authority

Ask yourself:

  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Does the author have expertise on the subject?

How can you find out?

  • Look at the source to see if it tells you anything about the author's credentials.
  • Look for a biography of the person.
  • Read a critical review. A review will often give information about the author.
  • Many Internet sources do not give the identity or credentials of the author or producer. Sources that do not give this information have questionable reliability.

Timeliness

Ask yourself:

  • When was the information published?
  • Is the date of publication important to the subject matter?

How can I find out?

  • Look at the date of publication.
  • Determine whether it is important to use current sources for the subject. In fields such as medicine, science, business, and technology, currency of information is important. In fields such as history and literature, older materials may be just as valuable as newer ones.

Documentation

          Ask yourself:

  • Does the author refer to other 
  • Does the source have a bibliography?

          How can I find out?

  • Does the author support his or her statements with data or references to research?
  • Look at the end of the source for a bibliography or list of references.

Purpose

           Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of the source?
  • Is it to inform, persuade, present opinions, report research, or sell a product?
  • For what audience is it intended?
  • Does it show any bias?
  • Is it popular or scholarly?

           How can I find out?

  • Read the source you are evaluating.
  • Determine whether the source is published by an organization with a particular purpose.
  • Determine whether the source attempts to sell a product or promote a particular point of view. Also, see if it presents a balanced view.
  • Determine whether the material is scholarly or popular. Refer to the page on popular magazines vs scholarly journals.

Review Process 

           Ask yourself:

  • If the source is a periodical article, was it peer reviewed (refereed) or reviewed by an editorial board?
  • If the source is a book, what is the reputation of the publisher?
  • If it is from the Internet, was there any review process at all? Was it critically reviewed after it was written?

           How can I find out?

  • To find out whether a journal is peer reviewed or refereed, try one of these resources:
  • Information may be published by an association, a university press, a commercial publisher, or a government. If you know something about the publisher, you can often identify bias and point of view. Try one of these resources to learn about the publisher:
    • the publisher's web page
    • Publishers, Distributers & Wholesalers of the United States (paper book, found in the Reference collection, call number REF Z475 .P86)
  • Many Internet sources are not reviewed before being posted; however, government, educational, and organizational sites have some sort of review process. If no review process is stated or evident, you may assume there is none.
  • Read a critical review of the book, movie, or music.

Suitability

             Ask yourself:

  • Does the source contain the information I need?
  • Is it written at a level I can understand?

            How can I find out?

  • Read the source. If it contains too much technical or specialized language or if it is written for experts in the field, you may wish to choose another source.
  • Determine whether the information is too general or too specific for your need.

 

End of Module 6. Check your knowledge with a Self-Check Quiz before going to Module 7. 

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