Once you've found some interesting sources to use in your research, it's important that you evaluate each of them. This means deciding whether they're trustworthy, reliable and of good enough quality for an academic assignment. The questions in the tabs below will help you to determine whether a source should be considered trustworthy:
Who are the authors? Individuals? Experts? Companies?
Who published it?
Look out for bias and opinion pieces e.g. a pharmaceutical company publishing research that says their new drug is effective.
What is the information?
Is it useful to your project?
It needs to relate to your question – try to keep a focus on the question not just the general topic.
When was it published? Recent? Dated?
Often you will need the most current information to answer your question.
Where did you find the information: website, blog, book, journal or database?
Where was the research conducted?
Always try to get your information from reputable sources e.g. textbooks, journals. Research conduced in other countries may not always be relevant.
How was the research conducted?
Is it representative?
How can you use it to answer your need?
If it’s a piece of research, how did they conduct it? Were the method and sample size appropriate and representative?
Will it support points you are making?
Why was it written?
What are the motivations behind it?
Look out for bias – see also ‘Who?’
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There's a lot of rubbish online. There's a lot of rubbish published more generally, for that matter. "Something I heard in the pub" is probably not a good indicator of credibility. The same has become true of "something I saw on the internet". In what is still a relatively new medium, the codes and signifiers of what constitutes a reputable source are still somewhat muddy, which is in part why fake news stories have been able to outperform mainstream media in terms of Facebook shares. Such 'fake news' can take many forms:
Take a look at the IFLA's guide to spotting fake news, and have a go for yourself on the Factitious game, below: