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Research and Writing (RaW): 5. Evaluate Your Findings

Guiding you through the process of finding information - from knowing that you need certain information...to locating, evaluating, and effectively using said information.

Why Evaluate?

You should analyze all the information you come across - regardless of whether you're looking for information for academic, professional, or personal reasons. Evaluating information encourages you to think critically about whether or not it is factual and reliable.

A perk of utilizing the library's resources and databases is that you know it's already been reviewed prior to joining our collection. That means half the work has been done for you and you can now focus on whether or not it is current enough and relevant to your needs.

However, if you're utilizing information on the world wide web, you'll need to be extra vigilant and cautious. Anyone can publish anything on the internet, meaning that most of what you'll find there is published without any type of review process.

Evaluating Information

To assess the resources you have found, consider the following criteria:

1. Currency - the timeliness of the information

  • when was it published or posted?
  • has it been updated?
  • does your topic require current information or are older sources also acceptable?

2. Relevance - the importance of the information for your needs

  • does the information relate to your topic?
  • is it written at an appropriate level - not too elementary or advanced?
  • would you be comfortable using it in a research paper?

3. Authority - the source of the information

  • who is the author/publisher/source?
  • what are the author's credentials?
  • is the publisher reputable?

4. Accuracy - the reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the information

  • is the information supported by evidence?
  • has it been reviewed?
  • can you verify the information in other sources?
  • are there spelling or grammatical errors?

5. Purpose - the reason the information exists

  • why was this created - to inform, educate, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • is it objective and free of bias?

 

Still not sure about the quality of your sources? 

Think Critically...

With a lot of reading to do it can be tempting to focus 100% on getting that job done. Taking the time to think about what you are reading and your best next steps can help you to stay on track and work smarter, not harder. As you read, consider the following:

  • what did you just read/learn about the topic?
  • are there any major themes or relationships you've been able to identify?
  • is there a gap of knowledge/discussion about certain aspects of the topic? [hint: this is especially important when conducting a literature review!!]

Taking the time to consider these questions can help you to work toward a focused and thorough draft.

Review...

Go back to your instructions and make sure you've gathered enough appropriate resources to meet your instructor's requirements. Think about what you're trying to do in your paper. Are the resources you've found sufficient in substantiating your claims/arguments?