Source Evaluation is one of the most difficult skills a researcher needs to master. The right side bar has tips to help you navigate an item you find in a database, online, or even in our catalog.

List of 3 items.

  • Evaluating Sources FAQs

    What are Periodicals?

    Periodicals are publications which are issued at regular intervals, such as journals, magazines, and newspapers. The Bunn library has many databases that contain periodicals.  The tricky part for students is determining which of our databases have popular magazines, which have scholarly journals and which have both. Most of our databases have both, two notable exceptions would be JSTOR and Project MUSE which ONLY have scholarly articles.

    Why does it matter what kind of results I get? How different are Scholarly Items verses Popular Items?

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell from a result list if the items are academic in nature.  This is because you only can see the citation, not the actual journal it is contained in.  

    Scholarly Items

    • Report original research or experimentation, often in specific academic disciplines.
    • The targeted audience is the scholarly researcher, faculty, and students.
    • Articles are written by experts in the field, and are signed.
    • Articles often use specialized jargon of the discipline, and assume a familiarity with the subject.
    • Illustrations are few, and support the text, typically in the form of charts, graphs, and maps.
    • Often do not include advertisements. Any advertisements included would be unobtrusive.
    • Articles usually include footnotes or bibliographies to other sources, using a standardized citation format.

    Popular Items

    • Are targeted at the general public, and available to a broad audience.
    • Articles are usually written by a member of the editorial staff or a free lance writer.
    • The language of the articles is geared for any educated audience, and does not assume familiarity with the subject matter.
    • Include many illustrations, often with large, glossy photographs and graphics for an aesthetically pleasing appearance.
    • Include advertisements.
    • Sources are sometimes cited, but articles do not usually include footnotes or a bibliography.

    How to Check Credentials or Point of View of an Author?

    You can always “Google” an author to investigate the credentials of the author.  For example, if the author is a university professor who has written many books, articles, etc. on your topic, you can feel very confident in their expertise.
  • Further Help

    The following sites contain additional information on evaluating websites. If you are still unsure whether to use a particular website in your research you can always consult with a librarian or your teacher.

    Cornell University
    John Hopkins University
    New Mexico State University
  • Website Evaluation and Analysis

    In addition to the information below, as a researcher you must use good judgment. Governmental, both United States and other nations (with a .gov or corresponding country domain), and educational (.edu) sites are credible sources for research. Well known National and International Governmental or Non Governmental Organizations (for example, the UN or the WHO) will also contain valuable information. Tip: It’s important to keep in mind that certain organizations have a certain perspective, for example a site sponsored by the Tobacco lobby may have a different perspective on smoking than say the World Health Organization. Understanding a site’s bias is important in evaluating the information contained within it.

    When researching on the web, the researcher must be able to analyze each web site with a critical eye by answering the following questions about the site:
    1. Site Ownership
      Does with website have authorship? Who is it? Is it a company, an institution, or an individual? If it is an individual, is it a personal site, or is it affiliated with a company or institution? Always go to the bottom of the page to check for ownership, copyright, disclaimers, and copyright information. Pages without copyright and disclaimers have little no or integrity, and should not be used for research.
    2. Domain Types
      Knowing your domain types (.com, .org, .edu, etc.) is very important to web research. A .com and a .net are almost never used for research, for these are commercial sites.
    3. Site Currency
      When was the last time this site was updated? This may not be stated on the page you are getting your information from. Always check on the root (or index) page of that site by deleting everything in the address field before the first slash (/). This is the root page for this site, and everything you need to know about this site should be on this page, or directly linked to from this page.
    4. Site Appearance
      Don’t be fooled by non-flashy or amateurish-looking sites. These may have very useful information. When doing research, avoid all sites with advertising.
    5. Site Links
      If a site has outdated/dead links, it has no integrity and therefore should not be used for research.
    6. Offsite Links
      While performing research on the web, always be sure of where you are and where a link you may click on is taking you. It could be a completely different site. Always check the Root URL (everything before the first slash) after clicking a link, to verify where you are on the web.

Tips to Remember

Audience: Are you the intended audience or does it fit for your level of expertise? Does it address in appropriate depth the question you are trying to answer?

Authority: Who authored the source?  When? What is the author’s background?  Credentials or expertise? What is his or her relationship to the events or ideas described in the source?

Questions At Issue: What are the central question(s) at issue in or for this source?

Conclusions: What are the key points or conclusions asserted in or by the source?

Evidence: Is the evidence supplied in or by the source: Valid? Accurate?  Complete?  Relevant?  Fairly and honestly reported? Is any significant information left out?

Purpose: For what purpose has this source been created? Is the purpose stated? Unstated?

Point of View: What point of view does this source represent? ( look carefully at the beliefs, reasons, explanations or rationales the author uses to justify his or her conclusions.)
Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose.  Our mission is to inspire the best in each to seek the best for all.