Evaluating Your Material

Each resource requires evaluation to determine its authority and appropriateness for your research using the following criteria:

Scope

  • Does the focus of the work match your needs?
  • Is the focus scholarly or popular? Popular magazines such as Time can contain useful information but it must be verifiable by another source.
  • Is the work a primary source (data, diaries, original documents etc.), a secondary source (evaluation of previously published material) or a tertiary source (encyclopedia, dictionary etc)? Each type can be appropriate for different aspects of your research.

Currency

  • When was the resource published? Older material is suitable for establishing a historical context but not for information on current issues.
  • Website Specific: When was the site last updated and by whom? Avoid using undated websites.

Authority

  • Who is the author or editor? Are their qualifications, experience, institutional affiliation and other publications listed?
  • Can the author be contacted for clarification?
  • Website Specific: Who created the website? Are adequate contact details and/or provenance available for the creator? An email address is not sufficient.

Purpose

  • Is the purpose of the writing clearly stated? Is it technical or clinical?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the material factual, opinion or propaganda?

Content

  • Is it peer reviewed?
  • Is there supporting evidence for assertions made?
  • Is the information verifiable?
  • Is there an accurate bibliography?
  • How does the work relate to material you have already read? Does it update, substantiate or add new information? Explore a variety of opinions.
  • Are the ideas and arguments similar to other readings on the same topic? Scrutinise radical papers more critically as they represent a departure from current thinking.
  • Is the text well written and presented? Does it contain subject specific jargon or is it written for a general readership? Is the language free of emotion and bias?
  • Is the material presented logically?
  • Website Specific:
    • Is the URL for the website stable? Authoritative sites should utilise an automatic redirection function if they move to a new URL. You must be confident the site will still exist if you need to revisit it.
    • Is the site well maintained? Are links within the website current?
    • Is there advertising on the website? If so, the type of advertising may reflect the content of the webpage.
    • Does an individual, group or organisation sponsor the site? This will indicate bias if any.
    • Check the domain e.g. .com (commercial) .edu (educational institution), .gov (government) etc to determine potential slant of the material.

Please contact your School Librarian or the Research Services Coordinator for assistance.