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Evaluating Sources  

Last Updated: Apr 4, 2013 URL: http://dyc.libguides.com/evaluating_sources Print Guide RSS Updates
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Evaluation Criteria

Citations – Citations can tell you a lot about a source that you are looking to use such as the author, title, and publication information (place & date). Older sources may not acceptable for your research (especially in the sciences) and the publisher can give you information about the quality & professionalism of the content.

Content/Coverage – Check the content of the document you are looking to read. If it’s a book, look over the index and table of contents to see if it matches your research needs. You can also check the book’s bibliography/citations for further insight. If it’s an article, check the abstract to get an idea of what the article is about.

Purpose/Audience – The content of a document can be meant for a variety of different people; the purpose of Entertainment Weekly is different from the purpose of a scholarly journal, for example. The amount of background information needed on the topic and its depth can also be a good indication of the intended audience.

Authority of the Author – When we talk about authority, we are talking about the power an author has to educate on a certain topic or subject. Indicators of an author’s authority would be his/her education, background, previous experiences within the field, and previous publications. Professionals within the field are frequently cited by their peers, so it can be relatively easy to start identifying authors. Sometimes authors will belong to professional organizations as well.

Objectivity – The information you are evaluating should be objective in nature, meaning it is free from any personal feelings or prejudices the author may have. Facts can easily be verified and checked; however opinions, even though they may be based on facts, come from the author’s interpretation of these facts. The information should be well researched and the language used should be impartial. 

Currency – How often the information you are dealing with is updated. Different kinds of disciplines and subject matters have different kinds of standards when it comes to currency. Research in the humanities, for example, can still be relevant years after it has been published; however, research in the sciences can be very rapid and become out-of-date quickly. This is also relevant for newspaper publications and websites. Books will list their publication date on the title page and websites will often list them at the bottom of the page. 

 

What is the Difference Between Scholarly, General, and Popular Sources?

 

Scholarly Sources

News/General Interest   

Popular Sources

Author

Experts (professors, researchers) with credentials.  

Members of the publications editorial staff, freelance writer, contributor, a scholar, journalists, professional writers,

No credentials, may be generalists or freelance writers

Citations

Include bibliographies  or references to works cited. 

May sometimes cite sources, but generally do not. Often rely on interviews.

May refer to other sources, but rarely will include a bibliography.

Coverage

Convey complex ideas and use technical or field-specific jargon. Original research.

Conveys information of a general nature. General interest/opinion.

Convey more common ideas based on popular subjects, entertainment, hobbies, etc.

Audience

Articles written for other scholarly or academic audiences. Specific to the journal they are published in.

Written for a broad category of interested readers, sometimes  including professionals

General public

Appearance

Little or no advertising; May have some images, but mostly just text.

Often have appealing illustrations; some advertising.

Heavily illustrated; significant space allocated for advertising; glossy, high-impact photos.

 

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly journals are usually made up of articles reporting the results of original research or thought. Scholarly articles are the preferred source of research because they are often “peer reviewed,” meaning that all articles were reviewed by a panel of experts prior to publication. 

You can access scholarly journals via D'Youville's subscription databases found here; search for specific journals here; or click the images below.

   

 

News / General Interest Sources

While at times very similar to popular sources, the main focus of a news source is to report information in a timely fashion. Even though more official in nature than popular sources, still proceed with caution while using a news source because they are not peer reviewed and can be at times biased in nature.


You can access D'Youville's holdings of newspapers by clicking here or on the images below

    

 

Popular Sources

Popular sources often are aimed at the general public, and contain things such as general interest stories or opinion pieces. Popular sources are not often used in research because they are meant to entertain and have an intention to advertise and make a profit.

   

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Find Articles Using Google Scholar

Google Scholar is used best when searching for a specific article. By simply entering the article title, Google Scholar will search the internet and D'youvilles holdings for the article. For more information on how to use Google Scholar, please refer to the Guide's section.



Find Primary Sources Using Google

You can limit which websites Google searches by limiting to a specific domain by entering "site:.<domain>" (site:.edu ; site:.gove ; etc.). This can be a great, easy way to find primary sources and statistical data. 

For more information on domains, please refer below.




 

Domains

What is a Domain?

A domain is essentially the name of a website. It can, however, provide information as to the credibility of a source. Here is a visual to help you understand how a URL is constructed.

Domain Types

.gov U.S. goverment
.mil U.S. military
.edu An accredited post-secondary educational institution (college or university)
.com Commercial, usually for profit
.org Non-commercial, not-for-profit entity
.net Internet related computer network
.int International organization
.jp, .ru, .ca, etc Country identifiers
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