Evaluate Sources and the Information in Them

Evaluating information for research is just a specialized, advanced form of the same critical thinking skills you already use.

Why is it necessary to critically evaluate information sources?

  • No source of information is guaranteed to be trustworthy.  You always need to use your own educated judgment, even with scholarly articles from library databases.
  • Some sources of information are more trustworthy than others, but it’s hard to tell from appearances.
  • Evaluating information using critical thinking will save time and effort by filtering out materials you can’t use.
  • Your critical thinking will show up in your writing and you will get better grades.

There are several things to consider when evaluating information sources, so here’s a mnemonic to help you remember them: TRAP

Timeliness
Reliability
A
ccountability
P
erspective (and Purpose)

1. Timeliness

  • How recent and up to date is this information?
  • Is the date of the material appropriate to the type of research you’re conducting?

2. Reliability

  • Can you determine the source of this information?
  • Can you tell what research methods were used?
  • Is the publication scholarly (peer reviewed?)

3. Authority

  • Can you tell who created/published it?
  • What are their credentials or qualifications to be writing on this topic?

4. Perspective (and Purpose)

  • Is the purpose to inform, entertain or persuade?
  • To misinform or manipulate (propaganda)?
  • What are potential sources of bias?
  • Can you discern an agenda?