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Lund University

LTH Master's student guide: Source evaluation

This is a helpful tool when writing your master's thesis at LTH (Faculty of Engineering). - by librarian Emma-Lisa Hansson

Evaluate sources

Are the sources that you are using trustworthy and reliable? 

When it comes to academic writing it's important to use credible sources that are accurate and reliable sources of information. they should be free from unfair bias. how do you know if the sources are reliable? Check below and see if the sources that you are using can stand against the evaluation criteria that you should set up when you are determining credibility!

Who, when, where & what?

When looking for sources, you need to think about whether or not they are reliable! You want your paper to contain sources written by unbiased and professional experts. You also need to consider if there are any commercial interests in the sources that you have found and wether you can use it or not.

Purpose

Find out what the purpose or motivation for the source is! Is it educational, commercial, entertainment, or promotional? Ask your self the following questions:

  • Is it trying to sell you something? How easy is it to differentiate advertisement from actual content in the source?
  • Based on your previous knowledge, is the information fact an opinion, or even propaganda?
  • Who is the intended audience for the information? How are the facts presented in the material? 

Authority

Can you identify who is behind the source? It's important to know who is behind the fact. Ask your self the following questions:

  • Is the author identifiable?
  • What is the author's background? Is it a person with experience, credentials, and occupation, and has he or she published anything else on the topic?
  • Does the author clearly cite their sources?
  • How current is the publication?
  • if you have found the information on the Internet, when was the resource last updated or revised, and how often is it updated?

Reliability

How reliable does the resource seem to be (especially in the case of Web sites), ask your self the following questions:

  • For Web sites, do most of the links on the page work?
  • From your evaluation of currency and authority, do you think the resource will be there the next time you visit it?

Coverage

Depending on what your professor has asked you for and on your research needs, you may need to look for certain kinds of material. In academic research in particular, your professor may ask you to find scholarly, peer-reviewed, or primary sources.What information is included or excluded?

Is the resource completed or under construction?

These are not the only criteria you should evaluate.