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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The Research Process

The Research Assignment

How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

Any resource—print, human, or electronic—used to support your research topic must be evaluated for its credibility and reliability. In other words, you have to exercise some quality control over what resources you use.  You need to evaluate the materials that you found and make sure that they are what you need for your assignment.  During this part of the research process, you will be figuring out if, for example, the article that you found will benefit your topic or thesis statement or if it goes against it.  You will be determining if the resource is a help to you or a hindrance.    

When using the print and multimedia materials found in your college library, part of your evaluation task has been completed for you, because librarians have already established the credibility and appropriateness of those materials for academic research.  For example, if you are using OneSearch through the UMGC library to find articles relating to project management and cloud computing, any articles that you find have already been vetted for credibility and reliability to use in an academic setting.

Click on the following resource links from the UMGC library for more information about evaluating resources:

Distinguishing among Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Journals

Using Library Research Databases to Locate Scholarly Articles

Web Based Resources

Because the Internet is easy to navigate and readily accessible, web material is unpredictable—it changes, becomes outdated, or is deleted. Because there is frequently no quality control over web information, you must critically evaluate all the material you find there, text and graphics alike.


Evaluating Research Resources

The list below evaluates your sources, especially those on the internet. If you answer yes to these questions, the source is likely of high quality and you should feel comfortable using this source in your academic writing and coursework.  

Evaluating Research Resources   
Authority/AccuracyIs the authority in this material clear and legitimate? Can the factual information be verified by legitimate authority? Can one opinion be verified against another?  
Purpose/AudienceWhat is the publication's mission or goal?  For whom is it intended?  
Objectivity/ContentIs the material objective and free of advertising, bias, and hidden agendas? Is the language impartial? Is the statistical evidence credible?  
Timeliness/CoverageIs the material updated frequently to ensure currency? Does the material reflect the most up-to-date research? Is the material complete, partial, or out of context? If the material is out of context, is there a path to find the source? 

Key Takeaways

  • Any resource—print, human, or electronic—used to support your research topic must be evaluated for its credibility and reliability.
  • Evaluate sources of information by examining them for authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage.

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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing