Preparing for Academic Writing & Speaking

Doing the research

Evaluating sources

As you find more and more different kinds of information in the library, on CDs or on-line, you will find that you will need to make judgements about their value. You will need to evaluate how useful and trustworthy these sources are. Here are some useful questions to ask:

  • What are the author's credentials? Where do they work? What have they published in the past? Is the author an expert in the area? Has the author's name been referred to by others?
  • When was the source published? Is it up-to date? Has it been updated? Does it update the work of others?
  • Where was it published? Is it in an academic journal? Who is the intended audience?
  • Who is the publisher? Is it reputable?
  • Are important points referenced so you can check them? Are the references up to date with current developments in your field?

This is especially important if you are using sources from the Internet. Paper resources will have been edited many times before they are actually printed. However, anyone can produce a web-site. Here useful questions might include (based on Jarvis, 2001, pp. 209-210):

  • Is the site an on-line refereed journal?
  • Is it a recognised newspaper or magazine?
  • Is it hosted by an education institution? (A URL address which includes either ...ac... or ...edu...)

If the answers to the questions above are “no” then further questions to ask are:

  • What information is provided about the author?
  • Has (s)he published elsewhere? Is there a contact email address?
  • Are there links to other sites where the answers to the above questions are yes?
  • Is the web site well organised?
  • When was it written? What is the date?
  • Does it have a clear title? What is the title?

Answers to these questions cannot guarantee that the sources are credible, but will help you to ensure that you are using relevant and acceptable sources.

 

See also: Writing Functions 12: Evaluating