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Evaluate Your Sources (Wayne College)


In general, for all formats:

  • How does this particular source answer my specific research questions? Where does it fit logically into my outline?
  • Does this source cover a lot of territory (comprehensive coverage) or does it fit in nicely with a specific point in my outline? What parts of my research needs aren't being met by this source? What else do I need to discover?
  • What time period does the source cover? Does it need to be supplemented with more historical or more recent information?
  • What is the geographic coverage of the source?  Look to see where it was published and if the source offers a local, regional, national, or international coverage of your topic.
  • What makes this source special or unique? How is information presented in this source better than information provided in other sources?
  • Is the source written at an appropriate academic level? Is it written in English?

For books:

  • Locate reviews of the book. A well-written review will discuss the focus of the book.
  • Does the book offer comprehensive or selective coverage of the topic? Is the coverage historical or current, or both?
  • Do you have the actual book in front of you?
    • Examine the table of contents: Is there are entire chapter or section on your topic?
    • Examine the book’s index to find relevant passages that reflect your research question.
  • Are you looking at a record for the book, either in a library catalog or on a website? (Try the UA Libraries Catalog, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Google Books)
    • In the library catalog make sure you're looking at the full description. A summary or table of contents for the book may be available.
    • In the UA Libraries Catalog look for an image of the book's cover.  Click on the image to see if additional summary, review, or table of contents is included.
    • On a website (especially bookstore websites) there may be a "look inside" feature that allows you to view some of the content online.  The site may provide a table of contents, index, or portions of the book to help you judge relevance to your topic.

For periodical articles:

  • Is there an abstract? Read this summary to determine if the article will add value to your research.
  • No abstract? Skim the article looking for relevant keywords.
  • What is the focus of the article? Does it cover the topic adequately or do you need additional resources to fill in the gaps?

For websites:

  • What is the focus of the website? Does it offer information not available in other, more reliable resources, or does it simply repeat information available in more reliable resources?
  • How deep are you in the website? If you explore other portions of the website, are there other pages that offer relevant information?
  • Does the URL give any clues to geographic coverage?  See "Country code top-level domains."