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MKTG 331 Morris: Evaluating Resources

Evaluation Checklists and Resources

Considerations for Evaluating Scholarly Articles

"Surface Level" Criteria -- Items you can evaluate simply based on the article citation and abstract. No other resource is required.

  • Title
    • ‚ÄčDoes it sound relevant to your needs?
  • Publication Date
  • Focus of Article
    • Look at the Subjects or Keywords listed for that article, and read the Abstract to gain a quick sense of the subject of the article.
    • Topic: What's the main focus? Does it directly relate to your topic, or is it peripheral? Does it have a narrower or wider focus than your topic?
    • Geographic: Does the study pertain to the same geography you had in mind?
    • Demographic: How about the target population of the article, or the study participants?
    • Historic: Do the authors focus on a current issue, or are they reviewing historical data/information?

"Larger Context" Criteria -- Items that require using outside resources to investigate and resolve

  • Publication Source
    • Where was the article published? (What website, journal, newspaper, etc.)
    • Does the publication make sense considering the topic of your research?
    • How's the publication's reputation and quality? See resources below.
      • Note on searching the three websites below: the search engines are very particular. Pay attention to how you're typing in the journal's title.
      • Change between using "&" or "and" within a title
      • Eliminate or add introductory articles ("The Journal of..." vs. "Journal of...")
      • Type in part of the title and let the search engine populate the rest
      • Add quotation marks around the entire title

  • Author(s)
    • What else have they published? Do they seem like an expert in that topic?
    • What institution do they affiliate with? This could be where they received their degree, or where they currently work.
    • What to look for: Anything that makes you question why the author would write about this topic. Maybe all their other research, the courses they teach, their degree, etc. are in a completely different field. Don't completely write them off -- first heck for overlap between that field and the topic at hand. It could also be that a co-author brings more of the subject expertise, and the other author is the expert in that particular research method. Just be aware of these pieces in case nothing adds up.
      • Google
      • Directory or departmental website for the author's institution. Check the author's page, see what courses they teach.
      • Authors' personal websites

"Critical Thinking" Criteria

  • Quality of Research
    • Read the article in full.
    • Then, read the article a second time, this time ONLY focusing on the research methods. Do they seem appropriate for the study? Is their sample size (e.g., number of participants) significant enough for the author(s) to form a conclusion?
      • Also, does the sample reflect the population you are interested in writing about?
    • Check for bias and purpose. How does the author approach the study? Do they go into it already expecting a certain outcome? This could mean they were biased toward that outcome, and did not bother looking for evidence of an alternate outcome.
    • Also consider the literature review or summary section (typically the first or second section), as well as the errors, limitations, or further research sections (typically near the end, after the methodology and results sections). Does the author account for the "imperfections" you might have found with regards to bias, research methods, sample size, etc.? Is this because previous literature already covered that side of the topic, and they are contributing a new perspective? 

Considerations for Evaluating All Source Types (Articles, Books, Websites)

What do we mean by "sources"?

For college-level research, you'll want to consider using only the highest-quality information sources that you can find. That said, the kind of information relevant to your research may also depend on the assignment and your topic. Here are some ways to determine the best information sources to lend support to your own research.

Evaluate a resource based on the following criteria: Currency, Relevance, Authority and Purpose.


Consider each

Why is this important?

Is the source Current?

  • When was the source published?
  • If it’s a website, when was it last updated?
  • Does your topic require current information or more historical resources?
  • Can you find even more current sources than this one?

Check your research assignment directions. Some majors/disciplines require students to use only the most current scholarship in the field, while current scholarship is not important for others.

In the sciences, the most up-to-date research is often considered the most valuable. For example, a research study about new technology from ten years ago might be less important than a study conducted last year.

Is the source Relevant?

  • Does the source support your argument/idea/question?
  • Does the source meet your assignment requirements?
  • Is the information too technical or too simplified for you to use?

Every single source that shows up in your work should be there for a reason and your reader should not have to guess what that reason is.

Every source that you include in your research work should be there to strengthen your idea or argument.

Is the Author an expert?

  • Authors of the source should be experts in some way. If you must use a scholarly source, an expert authority on the subject will have an advanced degree such as a PhD.
  • Is the author affiliated with a prominent organization or educational institution?
  • Can you find information about the author from reference sources or the internet? 

Consider an author’s credentials before you commit to using the information that they have made public. Experts often have advanced academic degrees, institutional affiliations, and long track records of publishing articles and books containing earlier research. Find author information:

In books – About the Author page

In articles from a database – the article citation or the article itself.

Website – the top or bottom of an article; the "about" page (if one exists); the very bottom of the webpage look to see if an organization claims copyright if the author's name cannot be found elsewhere

What is the source’s Purpose?

  • Is the author’s purpose to sell, persuade, entertain, or inform?
  • Is there an obvious bias or prejudice?
  • Are alternative points of view presented?
    Does the author omit important facts or data that might disprove the claim?
  • Does the author use strong or emotional language?

 An author’s bias can affect the validity or even the truthfulness of the information they have made public, treating one side of an issue more favorably than another. For example, an Apple website will claim its iPhone is the best in the world. Motorola will claim its Droid is the best. They both make this claim because they want to sell their phones.

Consumer Reports, an un-biased group who rates products, will study both phones and determine superiority based on what consumers desire and they make that viewpoint known to readers.

Using biased sources to support your ideas makes it easy for your audience to challenge the validity of your argument or analysis.







Considerations for Evaluating News

What kind of article are you looking at?

  • News story: a factual, prose story for print or broadcast media about a person, place or event answering these five questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. A news story is written in the inverted-pyramid style, giving the most important information first and additional details later.

  • Editorial: a brief article written by an editor that expresses a newspaper's or publishing house's own views and policies on a current issue. If written by an outsider it normally carries a disclaimer saying the article does not necessarily reflects the publisher's official views.

  • Opinion piece: an article in which the writer expresses their personal opinion, typically one which is controversial or provocative, about a particular issue or item of news.

  • Advertisement: a paid, public communication about causes, goods, services, ideas, organizations, people, or places designed to inform or motivate. Words to look out for include "sponsored" or "paid advertisement."

What is the main point of the story? Do the headline and the lead support the main point of the story? 

  • The headline (title) and lead (the first sentence or two of an article; sometimes known as a "hook") do not always line up with the article's main point. 

  • When either of these sounds sensational or leading (You Won't Believe What Happened Next!), they could be fishing for views or clicks. i.e., click bait

  • Likewise, headlines displayed in social media or news wires do not always match the headline on the original source. While this may not discount the source itself, it is necessary to take notice of this.

Has the story answered the questions of Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

  • What is unknown, unanswered, or unclear should be acknowledged. 

  • Other sides should be given a chance to present their argument. 

  • Many breaking stories are incomplete or inaccurate due to deadlines and the 24hr news cycle. If more information is made available, the story should be updated accordingly. 

What evidence supports the main point of the story? What evidence has been verified? How was it verified? What evidence has not been verified? Is the evidence direct or indirect? 

  • Evidence is not the same as a source. Evidence is the proof a source offers. Evidence that is verified has been checked and corroborated via a stated method of verification.  

What kind of sources are cited in the article? Are they reliable? How do you know? 

  • A source is the person, report, or data being quoted in an article. 

  • Sources can be named or unnamed. Multiple or single. Credentialed or not. Close to the event/issue or not. Named, multiple, credentialed, close sources are preferred, though in some cases an anonymous source may not be named due to potential backlash or harm to the source for speaking out. 

  • When looking at reports or data as a source, be sure to look at the producer of the information. Do they have a stake in the event or issue that could make the report or data biased? 

Does the journalist/reporter/news source make their work transparent? How does the editorial board, the publisher, and the advertising department work together? Does the paper have a code of ethics? 

  • Finding out what influence different departments have or don't have on each other should be easy if it is a reputable source. 

  • A code of ethics, standards, or guidebook should be associated with the news source and easy to find.

  • Potential conflicts of interest or known associations should be stated up front in an article.

  • Funding and ownership of the media production should be publicly available.


Credit: The University of Texas Libraries, "Evaluating News Sources."