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PSY 4101 Adv. Research Methods: Animal Behavior: Evaluate Sources

Are your sources credible and relevant to your research?

Consider these criteria to determine if a book, article, or web site is scholarly and relevant*:

Criteria: Questions to consider:

Authority/Credibility

Determine the author of the source.  The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable, and truthful.

 Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?

  • Does the source provide any information that leads you to believe the author is an expert on the topic?
  • Can you describe the author's background (experience, education, knowledge)?
  • Does the author provide citations? Do you think they are reputable?

Accuracy

The source should contain accurate information that can be verified by other sources.

  • Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
  • Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

Relevance

The source should meet the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.

  • Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
  • To what extent does the source answer your research question?
  • Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
  • Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?

Currency/Date

Determine if currency is pertinent to your research.  Some written works are ageless (e.g. classic literature) while other (e.g. technological news) become outdated quickly.

  • When was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been updated recently?
  • Is currency pertinent to your research?

Objectivity / Bias

Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased. 

  • What is the purpose or motive for the source (educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional, etc.)?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the author pretending to be objective, but really trying to persuade, promote or sell something?

Style 

Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.

  • Is the source well-written and organized?
  • To what extent is it professional looking?
  • If it is a website, can you navigate around easily?
  • If it is a website, are links broken?

*used with permission from the Biola University Library