Key Principles to Consider When Evaluating Resources
There are eight key principles to consider when evaluating resources. These principles can be applied to analyzing any type of information including news articles, books, and both popular and scholarly periodicals:
- Authority. Who wrote the content? Do they have the proper credentials or expertise to be writing about the topic?
- Timeliness. How old is the information? Is the information current or is it outdated and no longer accurate? The New York Times is a great example of a website with current information.
- Bias. Does the author have a specific agenda or viewpoint that damages the objectivity of the information? Do the pages have advertisements? Selling products?
- Intended Audience. Who is the resource’s target audience? Is the information geared toward scholarly learning or are its contents for entertainment/popular purposes only? The FDA has a site geared towards children and one for adults. While both sites have valid information, the delivery of the information depends on the audience.
- Depth/Coverage. Does the resource provide a general overview or does it have in-depth detailed information? The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is an example of a web page with a lot of depth.
- Sources Cited. Does the resource provide citations or is the source of its information a mystery? The Mary Ferrell Foundation JFK Assassination Medical Evidence web page provides many links to primary and secondary resources.
- Stability. Is the resource well established? Will it continue to exist well into the future? Or is it a poorly maintained and temporary presence on the Internet? The Way Back Machine is a portal to an archive of old web pages. Compare a page two years ago to a current one to see how fluid the web is.
- Design and Functionality. Is the resource easy to navigate? Does it contain proper grammar and spelling? In the case of a website, does it provide updated or broken links?
Video Tutorial on Evaluating Articles
Courtesy of Vanderbuilt University.
What does your instructor mean when he/she says to use "scholarly articles?"
- Scholarly articles appear in journals typically published 2-4 times per year. They are meant to inform, report or make available the most original and up-to-date research. They are written by experts and reviewed by authorities in their field, and are often referred to as 'peer reviewed.' Information from sources used is always cited, including a bibliography, references and footnotes.
Supplemental resources that are generally not considered "scholarly":
- Art Periodicals (Trade): Articles from Art Periodicals are written by professionals in the field to examine issues in the field as well as highlight current trends in art. While there is subject-specific language, articles found in these periodicals are not peer-reviewed. They contain illustrations, ads and photos. Researchers may find art reviews, critiques and artist interviews, helpful in supplementing more scholarly sources.
- Popular Magazines: Articles from popular culture magazines are written by paid journalists and freelancers. These articles usually do not have citations, making the content less legitimate. Popular magazines contain many advertisements and may reflect the bias or intent of the writer and/or publisher. While they are not generally considered scholarly, articles from popular magazines may help contextualize information in your paper.
- Newspapers: Newspapers are not reviewed by experts, but can be important primary source documents. In particular they can provide contemporary reporting on art exhibits or literature reviews.