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When you encounter any kind of source, consider:
Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view?
Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
Publication & format - Where was it published? In what medium?
Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?
(Google Doc) Evaluating Information Worksheet
Use these questions to help decide whether a source is a good fit for your research project.
Who is the author?
What else has the author written?
Does the author have any conflicts of interest?
In which communities and contexts does the author have expertise?
Does the author represent a particular set of world views?
Do they represent specific gender, sexual, racial, political, social and/or cultural orientations?
Do they privilege some sources of authority over others?
Do they have a formal role in a particular institution (e.g. a professor at Oxford)?
Why was this source created?
Does it have an economic value for the author or publisher?
Is it an educational resource? Persuasive?
What (research) questions does it attempt to answer?
Does it strive to be objective?
Does it fill any other personal, professional, or societal needs?
Who funded the research?
Who is the intended audience?
Is it for scholars?
Is it for a general audience?
Publication & format
Where was it published?
Was it published in a scholarly publication, such as an academic journal?
Who was the publisher? Was it a university press?
Was it formally peer-reviewed?
Does the publication have a particular editorial position?
Is it generally thought to be a conservative or progressive outlet?
Is the publication sponsored by any other companies or organizations? Do the sponsors have particular biases?
Were there any apparent barriers to publication?
Was it self-published?
Were there outside editors or reviewers?
Where, geographically, was it originally published, and in what language?
In what medium?
Was it published online or in print? Both?
Is it a blog post? A YouTube video? A TV episode? An article from a print magazine?
What does the medium tell you about the intended audience?
What does the medium tell you about the purpose of the piece?
How is it relevant to your research?
Does it analyze the primary sources that you're researching?
Does it cover the authors or individuals that you're researching, but different primary texts?
Can you apply the authors' frameworks of analysis to your own research?
What is the scope of coverage?
Is it a general overview or an in-depth analysis?
Does the scope match your own information needs?
Is the time period and geographic region relevant to your research?
Date of Publication
When was the source first published?
What version or edition of the source are you consulting?
Are there differences in editions, such as new introductions or footnotes?
If the publication is online, when was it last updated?
What has changed in your field of study since the publication date?
Are there any published reviews, responses or rebuttals?
Did they cite their sources?
If not, do you have any other means to verify the reliability of their claims?
Who do they cite?
Is the author affiliated with any of the authors they're citing?
Are the cited authors part of a particular academic movement or school of thought?
Look closely at the quotations and paraphrases from other sources:
Did they appropriately represent the context of their cited sources?
Did they ignore any important elements from their cited sources?
Are they cherry-picking facts to support their own arguments?
Did they appropriately cite ideas that were not their own?