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Research Help

Evaluating Information

One of the most important steps in acquiring knowledge is evaluating the quality of information prior to your accepting it.
The following links provide a wealth of resources in how to properly evaluate information sources.

Criteria for Evaluating Information Sources

Authority

  • Is the source authoritative?
    • Author is an expert in the field
    • Author has knowledge based on education or experience
  • Is the source reliable?
    • Author cites authoritative sources on the topic
    • Publisher has a reputation for accurate and complete information

Content

  • What kind of information is presented?
    • Overview or survey of the topic
    • Facts and statistics
    • Research report; research-based article or book
    • Opinion or based on personal experience
    • Critique, analysis, or review
  • How well is it presented?
    • Information is well organized
    • Spelling and grammar are correct
    • Menu, table of contents, index, or section headings to help in locating specific information
    • Illustrations and tables are appropriate and useful

Purpose

  • What is the purpose of the source?
    • Educate and inform
    • Entertain
    • Persuade
    • Market a product or service
  • What point of view is presented?
    • Fact-based; objective
    • Examines various sides of an issue fairly
    • Favors a particular outcome, cause, or candidate
    • Attempts to convince you to a certain way of thinking about a topic

Date

  • When was the source published or created?
    • Covers current events
    • Includes background on the topic
    • Provides historical coverage
  • Has it been updated or revised?
    • Includes latest research findings
    • Describes  new discoveries or techniques
    • Citations and links include up-to-date sources

Can I use this source?

  • Does this source fit the criteria required for the assignment, such as publication date or type of source?
  • Does the source offer a point of view that supports or challenges my argument?
  • Does this source use language and terminology that I understand?

Schedule an appointment with a librarian to learn more about evaluating sources.

Evaluating Sources: Magazines & Journals

Journal

  • A collection of scholarly articles, printed or online
  • Articles report on research in a particular field
  • Authors are experts in their field
  • Articles are peer-reviewed. Experts in the same field as the author review and evaluate the paper being considered for publication
  • Articles include notes and citations
  • Articles use the terminology of the field

Magazines

  • A collection of articles, printed or online
  • Articles are meant to inform and entertain
  • Authors are staff members or free-lance writers
  • Articles are not peer-reviewed and do not include citations
  • Articles include illustrations and photographs
  • Articles are written for a general audience

Trade Magazine

  • A collection of articles, printed or online
  • Articles cover news and give practical information on an industry or trade
  • Authors are specialists in their industry or trade
  • Articles are written for people in the industry
  • Articles are not peer-reviewed and do not include citations
  • Authors use the terminology of the industry

Examples of the three major categories of periodicals:

Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines

Trade Publications

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vogue Nation's Restaurant News
Journal of Educational Research Scientific American Publisher Weekly
Political Quarterly National Geographic Advertising Age
The American Psychologist Psychology Today Information Today
Progress in Human Geography U. S. News and World Report Aviation Week and Space Technology

Adapted from "Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines, and Trade Publications," by Carol A. Singer, Reference Librarian, Bowling Green State University.

Evaluating Sources: Primary and Secondary

Primary Sources:

Primary sources are resources that record or describe events at the time they were experienced.

Examples

  • Original documents, such as diaries, letters, photographs, or official records
  • Creative works, such as paintings, manuscripts, or scores
  • Artifacts, such as tools, weapons, or ornaments.

Primary sources can be found in print and online collections.

At SAGU, the Bible is considered a primary source.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are ones that

  • Interpret or explain past events
  • Analyze or restate primary sources
  • Argue a particular interpretation or point of view

Examples:

  • Journal Articles
  • Commentaries
  • Biographies

Secondary sources can be found in print and online collections.

Credit

Shout out to the librarians at Mount St. Joseph University Archbishop Alter Library for creating the wonderful LibGuide from which I have borrowed heavily!