Evaluate information

Learning outcomes

Evaluating publications is important to ensure the information is suitable for your purposes and from reliable sources.

Below are questions to ask to identify poor quality or inappropriate resources (e.g. journals, books, websites, blogs, videos). With practice, you will become familiar with authoritative authors and resources, and the styles of communication used in your discipline.

Evaluation criteria

Is the information current? When was it published? If the publication is online, when was it last updated?

Caution: Not all websites will have a published/updated/modified date. Don’t be fooled into thinking a page that has ©2019 means it was updated in 2019.

Is the information relevant to your topic? Who is the intended audience and will it match their level of understanding? What are others saying about the information: are there any published reviews, responses or rebuttals?

Who is the author(s) and what are their qualifications or credentials? Have they published other work on the topic? Do they have an authoritative standing in this field?

For websites ask, who is responsible for the content of the site? Does the author or institution clearly identify its credentials, affiliations, and sponsors?

Is the information supported with references or other evidence? Are sources identified, so that the evidence can be verified? Are the cited sources reputable? Are there spelling/grammatical or factual errors in the information?

Check the type of language used: emotive words can reveal biased viewpoints as opposed to a balanced argument. Does the information identify when facts vs opinions are expressed? Are other perspectives explored? Does the source have a specific agenda e.g. a commercial or political organisation, and are its objectives and goals clearly stated?

What is the scope of coverage? Is it general or in-depth? Does it adequately cover the topic? How does the coverage compare with that of other sources on the same or a similar topic? Does the information contribute new knowledge to what was already known?

Consider why the sources were created and why the information was written e.g. for sharing of academic knowledge, dissemination of government or NGO information, or popular communication? 

Is it peer reviewed?

Peer reviewed or refereed journal articles are the mainstay of academic research. Check Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory to see if a journal has been peer reviewed/refereed.

Look for the Referee’s shirt symbol.

Watch this video to learn how to check if a journal is peer-reviewed.

Website shown in video © EBSCO Industries


Fundamentals of searching