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Search and evaluate success

Evaluating resources

Guidance to help you evaluate the resources you find and whether they are useful for your research.

A student working with books and a computer.

In an academic context, evaluating the sources you have found and used is vital to making sure your arguments are well-evidenced.

Evaluating information will begin with establishing why you need the resource.

The following questions should be seen as ways to quickly evaluate whether a resource is useful and relevant for your academic work.

Questions to ask

Who wrote the resource?

  • Is there a named author?
  • Can you find out more about the author? What else have they published? Are they affiliated to a particular company, charity or university?
  • Are there contact details for the author?

Why was the resource written?

  • Who is the intended audience: academic, professional, or general public?
  • What is the purpose of the resource? To inform, educate, argue, promote? Can you detect a bias?
  • Whose voice is being expressed? The author's? Does the author claim to speak for others? Under what authority?
  • Has the resource been sponsored?

When was the resource written?

  • Is this a recent piece? What counts as recent in your subject?
  • If you are viewing the resource online, is a 'last updated' date included?
  • Are any links in the resource still active?
  • How does it compare to other resources on the same topic? Are there more recent pieces of information available?

Does the resource give references to follow up?

  • Is it clear where information given within the resource comes from?
  • Are there references at the end of the text that you can follow up?

Double-check the information given

  • Is there another website that also considers the topic? How do they compare?
  • Is the subject covered on a fact-checking site such as Full Fact? Remember to check possible biases of fact-checking sites too.

Extra guidance

For additional advice, you can download our evaluation guides:

Evaluation of information guide (PDF, 137kB)

Evaluation of information guide (docx, 18kB)

Search and Evaluate Success is based on SMILE by Imperial College, Loughborough University and the University of Worcester, modified by Library and Learning Services at York St John University. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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