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GOV 1301: National Government: Evaluating Sources

This guide--and associated resources--corresponds with the course GOV1301: National Government.

Types of Information Sources

Types of Information Sources

Source types make up the scope of the literature you are searching. Common source types (which can be in print or online) include:

  • Books that encompass a single work
  • Books that incorporate multiple works (such as a collection of essays by scholars)
  • Journal articles (look for peer-reviewed articles)
  • Conference Papers
  • Technical Reports
  • News articles
  • Websites (such as government or NGO websites)

Evaluating as a Process

Questions to Ask When Evaluating the Sources You Find:

The 5 Ws The Surface-Level Questions The Deeper Questions

 

Who?

Who is the author, editor, or creator? Is the author qualified to write about this topic? 

What makes them qualified? First-hand experience? An advanced degree?

 

What?

What type of document is it? For example, is it a newspaper article? A blog? A government website? A scholarly article? A book?  

What is it about?

Is the source type appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Is it relevant to your research?

 

When?

When was this source published? 

Is the publication date appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

 

Where?

Where did the authors get their information from? Are citations provided?

Did the authors cite sources that are credible? 

 

Why?

What was the goal of the author or publisher?

Who is the intended audience?

Is there bias? Bias does not necessarily negate credibility. We all have biases. The question then becomes: are those biases disclosed? Do they impact the quality of the information?

Was this source created for a scholarly audience or a more general audience?

 

Do your best to find the answers to these questions. Use these questions to help answer the broader question: Is this source appropriate to use for the research that I am conducting?

Evaluating sources is an ongoing activity you will do throughout your research, and it includes evaluation of your own search process. As you search, pay attention to the keywords and phrases you are using. Are you looking for information that will only confirm what you already suspect? Or are you looking for possibly contradictory or opposing information as well? Do you have any 'go-to' sources that you use to find information? Or are you using a variety of search tools and looking for different points of view?