Here are some questions to guide you through the process of critical evaluation of information sources:
- Is the document related to your on topic?
- Is the information at appropriate depth or level for your assignment?
- Is the source a scholarly or popular publication? And is the publisher reputable in this discipline?
- Is the author a recognized authority in this field of study? What are their credentials? (And are their credentials related to the subject matter?)
- Do other authors quote from this author's works?
- Is there a means of contacting the author?
- When was the document written? (Look for a publication, copyright, or “last updated” date.)
- Is it recent enough to be relevant to your topic or discipline? Sometimes you are required to use recently published material; sometimes you must use historical documents.
- Does the author provide sources for statistical information?
- Is the data from a valid study (that utilized accepted methodologies for the discipline)?
- Analyze the author's argument, the assumptions made, the evidence or data gathered, and the interpretation of the data.
- Are there any flaws in the author's logic?
- Does the author consider alternate interpretations of the evidence?
- If you discovered that the author ignored other interpretations, is the author attempting to deceive or manipulate readers?
- Does the author refer to relevant information or data that was available at the time the work was published?
- Or, does the author use out-of-date information; or ignore information or data that was available at the time?
- Did the author consider all aspects relevant to the topic?
- Does the author state any bias?
- If you discovered any omissions in the coverage of the topic, did this reveal a bias or prejudice?
- Is the author selling something? Do they have a corporate sponsor?
TIP: Considerable information is now available online; however, because the Internet is relatively anonymous it is critical that you evaluate your online sources carefully. "Evaluating Web Pages” is an excellent guide to this topic produced by the UC Berkley Library.