The Research Process: Step 3: Evaluate

A step-by-step guide for getting started in the research process.


When doing research, it is important to find information that is reliable and appropriate for your assignment

Assignments may require you to use certain types of sources such as primary or secondary sources, or specific types of periodicals such as scholarly journals. Other assignments may require you to limit the number sources you use. Often Internet sources fall into this category.

In all cases, you should always evaluate the information included in your assignments.

Why Evaluate?

Knowing how to evaluate information will help you with research assignments and also with the bigger decisions you make in life.

Knowing how to find relevant, reliable, accurate information can help you make informed decisions about things like graduate school, a new car purchase, financial aid options, daycare choices, and more.


Test your sources to see if they are paper-worthy. Our Library Quick Guide shows you how to evaluate websites using the 5 W's Method:

Who: Check the Author or Publisher

What: Context of the Information

When: Currency

Where: Origin of Information

Why: Purpose

Evaluation Criteria

When doing research, you should use a variety of sources such as books, articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals, and websites. To ensure you are including only valid information in your research, evaluate your sources using the criteria below.

 Criteria  Questions to Ask
 Author / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful. 

Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?

Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?

Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?

Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?

The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.

Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?

Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?

Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

 Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?

To what extent does the source answer your research question?

Is the source considered popular or scholarly?

Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?

 Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.

When was the source written and published?

Has the information been updated recently?

Is currency pertinent to your research?

 Objectivity / Bias
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 

What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?

Who is the intended audience?

Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?

 Style Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

Is the source well-written and organized?

To what extent is it professional looking?

If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?

If it is a website, are links broken?

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