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DIY Research: Evaluating Sources

Learning Objectives f

Evaluate sources and website critically Select appropriate information and decide if information need has been met

What about Wikipedia?


Wikipedia is a global, “openly editable” encyclopedia, meaning anyone can edit the content.  When using Wikipedia for research, you must evaluate the material just as you would with any other webpage.  It is not a bad place to gather information, but because of its openly editable format and a lack of peer reviewed content, the information must be read with an extra critical eye.

        Pro: Anyone can edit it!  Con: ANYONE can edit it! 

Rest Stop

How do you use Wikipedia the most?

Rest Stop
All the time to look up random, non-academic information: 27 votes (38.03%)
All the time to get my research started: 5 votes (7.04%)
Every once in a while to look up random facts: 27 votes (38.03%)
Every once in a while to use in my research: 2 votes (2.82%)
Never: 10 votes (14.08%)
Total Votes: 71

Evaluating Sources

When you are performing academic research, you must wear your “critical hat” to evaluate the credibility of each source.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Purpose: Who is the intended audience for this source? Was this source written to persuade or inform readers? Does the author(s) have ulterior motives?
  • Authority: What are the credentials of the author? Is the author a recognized scholar or expert in the subject matter being presented? Is the source from a recognized mainstream publication?
  • Accuracy: Are the facts contained in the article correct, as far as you know?
  • Timeliness: How old is the source? Is the information current? Is it too old or too new?
  • Adequacy: Do you have enough information to support your evidence or argument? What about alternate viewpoints?
  • Objectivity: Does the author show any biases or opinions that could be distorting facts?

Credibility Map

The credibility of your assignment rests on the credibility of the resources you have used in it to support your arguments. Before you include a resource in your assignment you will need to evaluate it to consider if it is appropriate for a university level assignment.

This guide suggests areas that you may choose to consider when evaluating resources. Of course there are many exceptions to any rule so ultimately it is up to you to decide on the appropriateness of each resource.

Information reproduced with permission from James Cook University Library.