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Plant Physiology (21:120:330)

This guide was created specifically for Dr. Karina Schafer's class - Fall 2021

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:


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