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Evaluation Criteria for Websites, Books, Etc.

Evaluating the authority, usefulness, reliability, etc., of the information you find is an important step in the process of research. You will need to evaluate the materials you have selected in order to determine the best sources for your research paper or presentation.

The evaluation process often begins before you actually have all your materials in hand. A citation can provide you with information or clues that will help you determine whether the material is popular, scholarly, current, historical, etc.   You may need to use other sources to assess the author's credibility and determine if his or her works are cited by other authors.

Quantity

  • Enough resources are needed to:
  • Support your argument
  • Include a variety of viewpoints and materials

Diversity

Variety is important. You might include resources such as books, newspaper and journal articles, internet sites, and even audio-visual materials. You may need to use statistical information, studies, scientific research, or firsthand accounts (primary sources).

Currency

When was the source published? Depending on the topic of research, materials from different time periods may be used.

Quality and Reliability

When choosing your resources, the most difficult task is determining their quality and reliability. Some factors to think about when assessing quality and reliability are:

Author
  • Is the author a well-known and well-regarded authority? How reputable is the publisher or Internet host site? Does the author list her/his credentials (e.g., education, occupation, etc.) for being an authority? Does the author's e-mail address appear so you can contact her/him for further information?
  • Does the author note her/his institutional affiliation (university, government, organization, etc.)?
Purpose
  • Is the purpose (inform, persuade, entertain, etc.) apparent?
  • To what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?
  • Note the Domain. Domain names are used as identification labels to indicate ownership or control of a resource (.edu, .gov, .com, etc.). Knowing this provides clues as to the site’s value and reliability. 
Content
  • How reliable and free from error (typographically, factually, and conceptually) is the information?
  • Is the material scholarly?
  • Is supporting material (bibliographies, indexes, charts, maps, etc.) included and correctly attributed?
  • How comprehensive is the coverage of the material?
  • For Web resources:
    • Are links to relevant information provided and do the links work?

Organization and Ease of Use

  • Does the organization of the material make sense? Are ideas presented logically and stated clearly? Is the material easily accessible? Do other resources present the same information, and how do they compare, generally, to the one at hand?
  • For Websites:
    • Do pages load quickly?
    • Is the site easy to navigate?
    • Do all the links work?

page last updated 8/27/2014 5:13 PM