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Evaluating Resources

College-level research assignments are usually going to require that you use specific types of resources. Why? Because whenever you build a research assignment using facts & information that you obtain elsewhere, you need to make sure that you're using credible resources--this will increase your own credibility! A few things to consider as you do your research include

  • Does your professor require a certain "type" of resource? For example, are you supposed to use books, scholarly/peer-reviewed articles, evidence-based research, etc.?
  • Are a certain number of resources required?
  • Is the resource relevant to your topic?
  • How does this resource offer something unique to your research that isn't provided in the other resources you are using?

No matter what type of resource you are using, it's important to evaluate it. An easy way to do this is to think "Who", "What", "When", "Where", & "Why".

  • Who: Who wrote it? Is he/she an expert on the subject? How do you know he/she is qualified? What makes the author an authority on the subject matter?
  • What: What value will this provide to your research assignment? Does it offer something unique or interesting? What is its relevancy to your topic?
  • When: When was this resource written or published? Is the information still accurate, or is there something more current you could use?
  • Where: Where did you find this resource? If it comes from a website, what kind of website is it? If it comes from a book, who published it?
  • Why: Why was it written in the first place? What is its purpose? Was it written objectively, or is it there to convince you or sell you something?

These are just some general things to consider as you conduct your research. If you need to distinguish between different types of resources, be sure to check out the library pages on Articles from Periodicals for determining if something is scholarly or popular; Doing Internet Research for evaluating any websites you may use; and, Recognizing Primary Sources if your assignment requires first-hand research.

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