Top tips

Evaluate the sources you find

Trust your instincts

Look for evidence to back up or corroborate your sources


This tutorial, from the University of Manchester Library, includes lots of tips to help you evaluate information

Finding the good stuff: evaluating your sources

There is so much information out there, we all suffer from information overload. How do you know if the information is any good? How can you trust it? It can be quite daunting, especially when you are new to a subject or field of study. Even if you find plenty of information, it can take time to evaluate it and assess whether it is good to use.

If you are struggling to find useful information, it might be time to rethink your search strategy. Use the library databases to find reliable sources, and use these to cross-check your research.

You MUST critically evaluate all of the information you find. The internet contains high quality and poor quality information, and you need to know the difference. Your marks will suffer if the evidence you use to support your arguments, analyses or conclusions is invalid or unreliable. You are responsible for the information you use.

You should evaluate all the information you find whether via an internet search, in a book or a journal article, or given to you by your lecturer or tutor. You have to decide if the information meets your needs and is of sound quality. The key criteria to help with this evaluation are:

  1. Relevance
  2. Reliability and validity
  3. Bias, viewpoint and objectivity
  4. Currency
  5. Accuracy

Remember to question the information and the ideas that you come across.

One of the quickest methods you can use to assess the relevancy and reliability of individual sites is to look at the URL.

In addition, think about the version of search engine you are using. The same search engine in different countries may produce differently weighted results, displaying results from the country in which you’re searching first.