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COLS 101: College Success: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

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Three Important Factors

  • Currency--It is important to make sure that your articles contain current information. That can mean two things:
  1. The article was recently published and contains updated information.
  2. The information in your article is current for your topic. For example, historical information rarely changes, so if you're doing research on the Roman Empire, it would be okay to use a book written 50 years ago, because the information is still helpful to your topic.
  • Trustworthy--It is important to make sure that your article is trustworthy. You trust the information and where their facts come from. Here are some ways to test trustworthiness:
  1. Look at the author of the article. What makes them an expert on the topic? Do they have an advanced degree in their field? Have they worked in the field? Do they work at a university? (You can't teach at a university unless you have an advanced degree.)
  2. Is there a list of references at the end of the article? If the author lists the sources they used to write the article, you could use those sources to verify information.
  3. Is there expert information in the article? Does the author quote facts/numbers that come from a trustworthy source, like a study, survey, or organization? Do they speak with a trustworthy source, like a doctor, head of an agency, or some kind of expert?
  4. Did other experts review this article, to check that the facts are correct? (You usually have a peer-reviewed article if you're using a scholarly journal article.)
  • Relevance--It is important to make sure that the information in your article is relevant to the topic you are researching. Look at your article and see if:
  1. There is a piece of information that you would use when writing your research paper on this topic. What specific sentence or piece of information would you use? For example, if you're writing a paper about student bullying, you might see that: "This article states that 10% of all high school students have experienced some form of bullying in their time at the high school." That fact might help back up a paper where you're discussing that there is too much bullying in high school.