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Evaluation of sources

It is very important to develop a critical attitude towards the different documents and publications you find during the information searching process.

This is equally important whether the publication is in printed or digital form. Already at the planning stage, it is of great value to reflect upon the authenticity and credibility of the sources you are planning to use.

When you evaluate your material, make sure to pay attention to:

Author

Who is the author? Is he or she well-known within the discipline? Can you find any information about the author, for example, is he or she affiliated with a research institution, organization and so forth? Is the author mentioned in other publications?

Publisher

Who has published the document? Is it an academic publisher or a publishing company that is well-known to publish material within the discipline? If it is a web document you are about to evaluate, you can try to analyze the URL, the web address. This includes, among other things, a domain name and geographical or country code, which may give information on to which kind of organization the author belongs.

Purpose and intended audience

For what purpose is the text written? Try to figure out if the author writes with a purpose of informing, influencing or provoking the reader. Who is the text written for? Is it adjusted to a specific target group and is it in accordance with your own information need? For instance, keep in mind that a researcher may write scientifically as well as popular about her or his findings.

Currency

When was the text written and doesthis fact has any importance for your purposes? See if there are any newer editions of the book, or if the author has written a more recent article about the same subject. The publishing date of web documents may sometimes be a bit trickier to find out, but in many cases there will be information about the last update of the page. However, it might be difficult to see what and how much of the text that has been updated.

References

The references cited in the text will show you what other research the author has chosen to regard as most important for her or his own arguments. The author might be supportive of as well as critical to others' research.

Contents

Is the document published in its original form, or is it a revision of material published earlier? How essential is the problem you are searching information about in the text? Does the content of the text correlate with other documents within the subject field or does the author hold a differing standpoint?

Is the data used in the document correct? For instance, is the statistical data reliable? If there are comparisons made in the text, are they based on the same statistical data?

Content updated 2015-08-11

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