During your studies, you will often find vast quantities of information on a single topic. For example, if you find a website that appears high up in a list of Google results, it's tempting to assume that its information is credible and up-to-date. However, this might not be the case. Therefore, it's important that you evaluate the information you find.
Consider the following when evaluating journal articles & books:
- Abstract or summary: read this to find out whether the full content might be relevant to you.
- Date: you might need the very latest research. However, check the dates of the references at the end of a document. For example, an article might have been published recently but it might refer to older research findings that have been challenged by more recent findings.
- Times Cited: if you have a large number of documents to read, it may be useful to start reading those which have been cited most by other authors as these may be highly influential. Web of Science tells you how many times an article has been cited. Be careful - some might be frequently cited where responses have been negative.
- Quality of articles: you may want to limit your research to peer-reviewed journals which only include articles that are approved for publication by other academics. All journals covered within Scopus and Web of Science are peer-reviewed. Other journals may be intended for a less academic readership. More about peer-review processes in Moodle's Information Skills Tutorial.
- Objectivity & consistency: ask yourself whether the author's argument develops with consistent rationality? Does the author reveal bias, perhaps omitting reference to key academic perspectives that might undermine his/her argument?
- Accuracy: if you find factual errors, you want to question the overall quality of the research. You can check the accuracy of a suspect fact by comparing it with at least two respected resources.
- For more detailed support: please refer to the following Moodle module (part of 'Academic Writing Skills'): Critically evaluating what you read
- Health and pharmacy/pharmacology students: please also refer to Resources to help you appraise medical literature
- Science students: please also refer to the following Moodle module: Evaluating scientific research literature
Evaluating information from websites
- Is the infomation credible?
- Evaluating information found through search engines
- Wikipedia: a tool for research?
- Online tutorial: Internet Detective
- Virtual Training Suite: subject-specific tutorials to help you develop information skills (including evaluative skills)