Evaluating information

Once you have found some information on your topic you need to establish how reliable it is. This page offers tips on how to evaluate the quality of academic and non-academic sources.

Why evaluate your search results?

There are two main reasons:

  • Critical analysis - careful evaluation helps you get into the habit of critiquing scholarly literature, which can lead you to produce better work and consequently raise your marks.
  • Quality control - anyone can publish on the web, so there is little quality control over online information, which is sometimes inaccurate or out of date.

5 questions to ask when evaluating

Reviewing your search

Examine your search results carefully to see if they are what you were hoping for.

If you are not happy with the results, don’t give up! A successful search will often take several tries. You can usually refine your searches by adding new terms once you have seen your initial results, or you may choose to limit your results if you feel you have retrieved too many.

Always remember to look at the "Help" or "Search tips" pages offered by the particular database or search engine you are currently using.

A screenshot of the evaluating information tutorial. Evaluating information

Learn how to evaluate both academic and non-academic sources of information with this tutorial.

Photo of an acorn with explanation of the ACORN acronym overlaid. Further help

Use Cite Them Right's ACORN method to help you better evaluate sources of information.

A photo of students at work in a Study Skills service workshop. Study Skills service

For help with incorporating critical analysis into your academic writing, visit the Study Skills page.

A photo of one of the reading rooms in the Wills Memorial Library. Subject Librarians

For further help with evaluating sources please contact your subject librarian, who you can find listed by subject here.

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