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Information Literacy: Guide for Students: Source Quality

Guide for Library Instruction

Why Should You Evaluate Your Resources?

Information varies in quality, so you need to approach it critically.  Different disciplines and sub-fields value different types of information, and what constitutes "good" information often depends on the context and the use to which it will be put. 

Determining the Quality of a Resource You Find

What is a 'quality' source?

Why should you be concerned about source quality as you research your topic? In fact, there are several reasons:

  • Faculty will consider the choices you made as they evaluate your work
  • A key skill of the digital age is evaluating information on the basis of credibility
  • Biased, incorrect, or misleading information will quickly diminish the credibility of your writing
  • As a participant in scholarly conversations, you have a responsibility to share only that information that contributes to the continuity of truth and discovery

How will you measure 'quality'?

First consideration: What is your purpose?

Even within the sphere of academic writing, the manner in which you make use of sources can vary. Sources can provide:

  • Definitions and background to inform the reader
  • Illustrative examples for clarification of your assertions
  • Real-life examples or case studies to enliven your writing
  • Expert quotes, opinions or the findings of scholarly research
  • Data and statistics to support your assertions or conclusions

For the first three of the above, news sources, such as magazine and newspaper articles, and general books could provide excellent background and detail for more compelling writing.

How can you evaluate sources?

See below checklist for ideas on how to decide between a good source and a questionable one:

Image: Source checklist for academic writing


Handouts for Evaluating Resources

Information Fluency

What is the CRAAP Test?