Austin Community College shows you how to choose good quality information for your research.
Articles & Books: Is the Information I Found Useful?
How do you know if the information you find during your research process is useful for your paper? Follow the six criteria below to help you decide!
Who wrote the information?
Who published it?
These questions help you decide whether the source of information, where the information comes from, is reputable.
Well-known and respected authors and publishers help to give information credit.
Bias/point of view:
Is the author's tone general or full of emotion?
Is there one overriding point of view being promoted?
Be careful to look for not only the information that's present, but also what's missing. If important facts or perspectives have been left out, it might be worth looking for other sources of information.
It's also important to be aware of any political agenda, strong opinions on social issues, or advertising.
If any of these are present, it might be wise to find other information that is not swayed by ulterior motives.
Is the information geared toward the area you're interested in?
Don't try to force relevance, if the information doesn't fit, keep looking.
Is the information specific enough for your needs?
If the information is too general and doesn't give enough particular detail, keep looking.
Also make sure the information is comparable to college curriculum as opposed to high school or university curriculum. Ensure the information isn't at a lower or higher level than what you need.
Is the information current and up-to-date?
If new information has been discovered on the subject, look for more recent articles and books.
Is the information presented accurate?
It is important to cross-reference notes with multiple sources of information to verify that what's being presented is correct.
A good place to start the verification process is the article's or book's bibliography.
Websites: Is the Information I Found Useful?
Websites can be useful sources of information, but when using them for research papers, it's important to evaluate them closely for credibility. Follow the five criteria below to help you evaluate websites.
Who wrote the information?
What are their credentials? As with journal articles and books, it's important to know if an author is reputable. Respected authors give more credibility to the information being presented.
Read the "About Us" or "About Me" page on the website to find information on the author's background.
Also, look for websites that end in .edu, .gov, .org, .net, .ca, .us, etc. These indicate sites that are likely more reliable than websites that end in .com.
This is the same as for journal articles and books. See the box to the left.
When was the website last updated? If the website hasn't been updated in a long time and new information has been discovered on the topic, look for a more current site.
Does the author cite his/her sources? If so, follow the citation links to evaluate the credibility of their sources. These links may also give you further information to work with!
What do others say?:
Enter the website's URL into alexa.com for information and reviews on the site.
Also try entering the author's name into a search engine to see what others say about him/her.