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School for Professional Studies

Evaluating Resources

There are two major steps when evaluating a resource. Look for the who, where, when, what, and why of the work.

1. Who, Where, When

  • Author
    • What qualifications does the author possess
    • Is the author associated with a University or College
  • Date of Publication
    • When was the work written
    • Are there other editions or revisions available
  • Publisher Information
    • University Press
    • Commercial Press
    • Journal, Magazine, Newspaper, Series, Book

2. What, Why

  • Audience for a specialist, college student, or the general public
  • Fact or Opinion, Evidence or Conjecture
  • Coverage
    • In-depth or Brief
    • Primary or Secondary Resources
  • Relevant to your research topic
  • Style
    • Is the work organized
    • Is the vocabulary appropriate to the content
  • References and cross-references provided

Evaluating Web Sites

Search engines like Google find websites of all levels of quality.

Keep these things in mind when deciding if a website is reliable and appropriate for your research.

  • credible authorship
  • objectivity
  • accuracy
  • recent updates
  • educational purpose

Always check with your instructor to find out if you can use free (non-Library) websites for your assignments.

Common Domain Types

Commercial Sites [.com or .net]
The sites provided by commercial interests are generally going to be biased toward the product  or information they promote. While this information might not necessarily be false, you might be getting only part of the picture because there maybe an ulterior motive to the site, such as public relations or making money. 

Education Institutions [.edu]
Sites using this domain name are associated with schools, college or universities. Information from sites within this domain should examined very carefully. If it is from a department or research center at an educational institution, it can generally be taken as credible. However, students' and faculty members’ personal Web sites are not usually monitored by the school even though they may use this domain.

Government or US Military [.gov or .mil]
All branches of the United States federal government and military use these domains. Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings would be included in sites with this domain. The information is considered to be from a credible source.

Sometimes, but not necessarily, a non-profit organization [.org]
Traditionally, non-profit organizations use the .org domain, but any organization can create a .org site. Examples of .org sites include PBS.org (public broadcasting system) and NPR.org (national public radio). Generally, the information in these types of sites is credible and unbiased, but there are examples of organizations that strongly advocate specific points of view over others. You probably want to give this domain a closer scrutiny. Some commercial interests might be the ultimate sponsors of a site with this suffix.

 

Information from USG Online Library Learning Center

Search Engine

Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar allows you to broadly search the web for scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources. When searching in Google Scholar, you can change your settings to reflect your search preferences. For example, under Library Links, you can set Google Scholar to find full-text articles we have at SLU. If you are asked to pay for an article from Google Scholar, instead search the library databases to get it for free. 

Search Tips

Wikipedia

The Wikipedia Foundation recently announced that it is implementing a new editing policy to provide greater oversight of certain articles. This change is expected to improve Wikipedia's accuracy and credibility. That said, the information in the resources listed below still holds.

Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface (video, NC State Libraries)

How to Evaluate a Wikipedia Article (University Library; UC-Davis)

7 Things You Should Know About Wikipedia (EDUCAUSE)

Local Newspapers

Links to local newspapers.  You will need to login with your user name and password for the Post Dispatch.

National and International Newspapers