Evaluating Your Material
Each resource requires evaluation to determine its authority and appropriateness for your research using the following criteria:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.