Evaluating sources is difficult, but asking yourself some critical questions about each of your potential sources can really help. The following questions are just a starting point, but can help you quickly weed out less useful sources and then more closely examine what you have left.
How is the source related to your broad topic?
How is the source related to your specific research question?
- Is it directly related? Does it provide context?
Do you understand the source?
- Can you summarize the main points and the evidence used as support?
- Do you need any background information to enhance your understanding?
Is the source appropriate for your project?
- Does it conform to your assignment instructions?
- How timely is it? How does this matter to your research question?
- How authoritative is it? Can you determine anything about the author? The publication it's in?
- What kinds of bias or authorial intent can you detect? Why was it written and published? Who is the intended audience?
How might you use this source?
- As a pathway to additional research, via the bibliography?
- Direct evidence to support a claim?
- As corroborating evidence? To provide a dissenting viewpoint? To provide background or context for your reader?
- Look at the quotations/statistics/facts you want to use. Are you accurately representing the author's intent, or simply cherry-picking to support your claims (warning: cherry-picking is not ethical).