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Evaluating Information: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Information

As a researcher, you need to be able to evaluate the information you find for credibility.  Despite the large amount of information available, both in print and online, not all of it is valid, useful, or accurate.  Determining whether or not information is reliable can be difficult; use the resources in this guide, or contact a librarian for help! 

Is the Source Credible?

In general, a credible source is one that is unbiased and is backed up with evidence. When writing a research paper, always use and cite credible sources. Ask yourself these questions when  determining if an article is credible or not:

  • Does the source include a reference list and document its research or data?
  • Who is the audience (researchers, professors, students, general population, professionals in a specific field)?
  • What is the purpose of the source (provide information or report original research or experiments, to entertain or persuade the general public, to sell something, or to provide news or information specific to a trade or industry)?
  • Who are the authors? Are they respected and well-known in the field? Are they easily identifiable? Have they written about other similar topics? What are their credentials?
  • Is the source reputable? Is it published on a reputable, non-biased web site, or in a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, and not on a blog, or wiki?
  • Is the source current for your topic?

A Bit about Blogs

 

Q: Why doesn't my professor want me to use a blog post as a source?

A:  In general, blogs are not considered scholarly sources because many are opinion-based and have not been evaluated for accuracy.  Depending on the criteria of your assignment, sometimes they can contain useful information, but if you are looking for peer-reviewed information they usually won't fit the bill. If you are unsure if you should use it or not, talk with your professor.  

SIFT Information

Evaluating Websites

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Librarian Contact

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Jodi Hilleshiem
Contact:
Todd Wehr Memorial Library
815 Viterbo Court
La Crosse, WI 54601
608-796-3278