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Evaluating Sources: An Interactive Guide: Home

Use library databases, catalogs, and other tools to help you critically evaluate an article or book and place it in the context of an academic discipline.

How to Use This Guide

Microscopio de tres cuerpos para las observaciones simultáneasThis guide will help you critically evaluate an article, book, chapter, web page, or other publication and determine its suitability for your purposes by using information found in article databases, library catalogs, reference works, and other sources.  Online catalogs, article indexes and the like are typically thought of as information retrieval tools: if you want to find books or articles, you can use these tools to locate them.  But these tools also provide information you can use to discover an author's expertise, the types of work she usually publishes, the nature of the sources publishing her work, as well as information about what other authors in the discipline have written on the same topic and how the work you're evaluating fits into the discussion within the discipline.

This guide includes three sections: 

1. Author Expertise

2. Discipline Discussion

3. Quality of Argument

Click on the tabs at the top of the page to move to any of these steps.  After working through these steps, click on the tab called "Putting It All Together" to see how the information you've gathered can give you a fuller picture of the work you're evaluating and how it fits into the larger conversation in its field.

Click on the "Worksheet" tab to view and print a worksheet that will be helpful as you work through the guide.

Photo credit: El Bibliomata / Foter.com / CC BY

What This Guide Isn't

This guide is not intended to teach you the mechanics of searching any particular database such as your library's online catalog or various article databases. It assumes a basic familiarity with searching techniques (i.e., an understanding of author and subject/keyword searching, the use of connectors such as OR and AND).

Copyright Notice

This guide may be reprinted or adapted for academic nonprofit purposes, providing the source is accurately quoted and duly credited.

© 2011 Andrea Bartelstein