The first step in evaluating a source is determining the authority of the author who produced the material. To determine authority, you’ll want to evaluate the trustworthiness (credentials, education, experience, etc.) of the author.
To determine credibility, ask these questions:
- Is the author formally educated in the subject?
- Does the author work for a university or research center?
- Is the author a recognized scholar in the subject?
- Does the author have an established history of research and writing on the subject?
Validity of the Research
The second step of evaluating a source is determining the validity of the research being presented in the article, website or book. To ensure that the research is valid, you want to determine the quality of the research used to support the argument being made. It is also important to remember that excellent or persuasive writing doesn’t necessarily ensure that the research presented is valid.
To determine the validity of the research in the source, ask these questions:
- Does the author thoroughly cite all the sources? (Saying “a study was done” is not a citation).
- Is there a list of sources at the end of the article?
- Does the author’s evidence support the claims?
- Is the author’s evidence objective research instead of a personal narrative?
- Does it come form a peer-reviewed publication (which means research was evaluated by experts before it was published)?
Relevance to Your Topic
The third step in evaluating a source is determining the article’s relevance to your topic:
To determine relevance, ask these questions:
- Is the article sufficiently broad to address the issue you are discussing?
- If the article is broad, can it’s conclusions be applied to your subject? (e.g. an article about drinking habits of students at large universities applies to your subject of drinking habits of CU students)
- If the article is narrow, can it’s conclusion be generalized to your subject? (e.g. an article about volleyball players and eating disorders at Hanalee Sate University can be applied to your subject of eating disorders in women college athletes)
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