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Biology of Cancer: Evaluating resources

Designed to help students in 21:120:402:01 find appropriate resources for their paper and presentation

How to Evaluate Sources

You must evaluate all sources that you find - yes, even those found on library shelves or within the library’s databases!  So, what do you need to look for?

· Currency: publication dates can be important depending on whether you are doing a historical study or need to most recent information about your topic

· Relevancy: is the resource relevant to your topic (and the parameters of your assignment)?

· Authority: are the authors/editors/publishers considered credible and reliable?

o What are their credentials? 

o Are they considered experts in the field?  Do other scholars cite them?

· Accuracy: is the information valid?

o Do other sources say the same thing?

o What supporting evidence (e.g., references) is provided?

· Purpose: consider who the intended audience might be and how this could affect how the information is presented

o What is the context in which the information was created?

· Objectivity: could there be biases that might have an effect on the information presented?

o Who is funding/sponsoring the study?

o What are the author/editor’s affiliations?  Is it possible that political viewpoints and/or religious beliefs might affect their objectivity?

o Is there balanced coverage, where all aspects of the subject are discussed to the same level of detail?

o Is it just-the-facts being presented or an interpretation of the facts?

o Are assumptions or opinions being made without supporting evidence?


Also consider - is it "good" research?  Think about the following... 

o Design of study:  is the design appropriate to the problem/question being studied? 

o Data Collectors:  how qualified were they?

o Sampling:  how many "subjects" were studied and how were they chosen?

o Statistics:  how sound is the approach/method used?

     o Bias:  in sampling, due to sponsorship of research, etc.

TIP:  The general rule of thumb has been that .gov (and most .edu) Web sites are usually reliable; however, you should evaluate those just as you would the .org and .com sites!

Click on the links below for more information about evaluating information sources:

One more quality indicator for journals

Peer review is a hallmark of scholarly journals.  Before an article is published, it is critically reviewed by one or more subject experts.  Recommendations for revisions are sent to the author for incorporation and then the article is published.  Readers benefit since the article now includes the expertise of both the author and the scholar(s) who reviewed the content.  This process also assures that the discipline's knowledge base is authoritative.

There are a few ways to determine if a journal is peer reviewed.  You can check the "Instruction for Authors" in the journal's website.  Authors will be alerted to the review process before they submit their article.

Some databases, such as Academic Search Premier,  include a limiter for "Peer reviewed."  In Medline and PubMed, all journals are peer reviewed so the limiter does not appear.

The peer review process

The peer review process

Peer Review Process

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