Top tips

Assess information quickly by:

  • reading the contents pages
  • skimming the indexes
  • reading the abstract

Abstracts can save you time!

Reading the abstract can help you assess if it is worth reading the whole article

There is a lot of great information on the internet but not all sources are credible - how do you know which ones to trust and which ones to disregard?

Tips to help you assess and select good information

There are many ways to assess the quality of sources. For a guide to what to look for, see .

Look through the contents or index pages

These give you an idea of what a book or report covers, and a clue as to whether it might be useful. 

Read the executive summary

The executive summary gives an overview of a report, outlining what is covered. If the contents of the report are useful, go on to read it - don’t just rely on the summary. 

Read the abstract

Shorter than an executive summary, an abstract can give you a flavour of the full document before you read it.

Read articles or papers

When choosing your sources it is important to read through articles and papers. For scientific papers this can be quite a task but here is some advice to help you: how to read scientific papers.

Look for evidence

Critical thinking and evaluation techniques will help you select good quality information.

Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically

When selecting your sources it is important to choose ones that provide credible evidence. Read information with a critical eye, asking where the evidence is and looking at the methodology used. For good advice on looking at evidence, see this video by Dr Kat Arney on YouTube.

What is an abstract?

An abstract is a short paragraph at the beginning of a research paper, summarising the main themes and conclusions. It gives a brief description of what the research is about, how it was conducted and what the findings were.

Abstracts will vary in length and some may give more detail than others.

Why are abstracts useful? 

An abstract won’t tell you everything about an article. It helps the reader to decide whether it is worthwhile to continue reading and analysing the paper in question. An abstract will often give: bibliographic details about the paper (year, authors, etc.), the background or initial hypothesis, keywords or subject terms used in the literature review, methodology used, results and findings, and the conclusions or recommendations drawn by the authors. You can view the abstracts of articles in bibliographic databases such as PubMed, and they provide a good indication of whether the full text will be of any use.