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Geography Resource Guide

Steps to evaluating a resource for research use.

Evaluating Sources Explained

When evaluating authority

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Who is the author? 
  2. What else has the author written? 
  3. In which communities and contexts does the author have expertise? 

Things to Consider:

  • Subject/Credential expertise - Someone who has a degree in that particular subject. Could also have worked in the field for an extended period of time.
    •  Ex: Neurosurgeon has a Doctorate of Medicine, completed a 1 year hospital internship and 8 years in a neurosurgical residency, and has been a practicing Neurosurgeon for 10 years 
  • Societal expertise - Someone who holds a public office
    • Ex: Congressmen, governor 
  • Special experience - Someone who has participated in an event or has life altering condition
    • Ex: Neil Armstrong --> walked on moon, has authority on that experience ; visually impaired has a unique experience of living in visually stimulating world 

 

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Does the source provide supporting evidence and do the author(s) link to or cite that evidence?
  2. Who produced the evidence; is it an original study or interview, and can it be corroborated or duplicated for confirmation?
  3. Does the source provide details to their editorial process; what measures have been taken to ensure accuracy and limit bias?

Things to Consider:

  • Original Data: Online news articles will often link to the original studies they cite that may be better suited for academic research.
  • Consensus: While original studies make excellent sources it's important to see if the findings have been duplicated by other researchers in the field.
  • Ethics: Many news websites will publish retractions if their previous information is in error.  Retractions are a good indicator of editorial integrity.

Purpose:  What is the reason for the information?

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. Is the source meant to persuade or inform the audience?
  2. Do you suspect the source to be fake news? If so, look at multiple sources on the web to see if the information is the same or different. You can also look at Fact Checking websites to make sure the information is accurate.
  3. Is the source produced by a think tank or non-profit whose goals may bias their results?
  4. Does the source relate facts or attempt to provide an emotional argument?

Things to Consider: 

  • Consider your purpose in conducting your research. Do your resources match your purpose?
  • If you use a source that contains bias, it is important to state what that bias is and balance it with an opposing viewpoint.
  • When using a website as a source, visit the "About" page. It can provide information about the publisher and their possible biases.

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. How is the resource relevant to your topic?
    • Does it analyze the primary sources that you're researching?
    • Does it cover the authors or individuals that you're researching, but different primary texts?
    • Can you apply the authors' frameworks of analysis to your own research?
  2. Does the resource adequately cover your topic?
    • Is it a general overview or an in-depth analysis?
    • Does the scope match your own information needs?
    • Is the time period and geographic region relevant to your research?
    • Does the information source leave questions unanswered? (ask yourself: who, what, when , where, why and how?) https://library.uaf.edu/ls101-evaluation

Things to Consider: 

The information should be relevant to your topic and adequately cover the subject. 

(https://guides.lib.berkeley.edu/evaluating-resources#relevance)

Questions to Ask Yourself:

  1. When was the source first published?
  2. What version or edition of the source are you consulting?
  3. If the publication is online, when was it last updated?
  4. What has changed in your field of study since the publication date?
  5. Are there any published reviews, responses or rebuttals?

Things to Consider:

  • Newest Data: Subject areas with constant innovation such as medicine, science, and technology will require the most recent information possible as previous theories/ideas may have been superseded in the wake of new knowledge.

  • Closest Perspective: Information as close to a past event/study as possible may be required to gain an accurate picture of the conditions or perspective of a topic.

  • Addendums: New additions may include footnotes or chapters that update the topic with new findings.