Evaluating Library Resources Bio14

 Now that you have found a collection of print and electronic resources, you should evaluate them. Just as you evaluate any important decision you make based on questions that you ask yourself, criteria exist that will help you determine the worth of the material that you have found.

 For example, you don't buy a car just because it's red. You also consider issues like price, gas mileage, safety, comfort, repair record, and other criteria. If the car checks out well in all these areas, then you can confidently buy that red car.

 While deciding on a particular information resource might not be as crucial a decision as buying a car, applying standard criteria assures you will weed out inappropriate sources. And, as you undertake more significant research projects in the future, these decisions will take on a great deal more importance.

Criteria for Evaluating Library Resources

Ask yourself the following questions about the criteria listed above.


  • Is the author easily identifiable?
  • Is the author a well-known and well-regarded authority in biology?
  • How reputable is the publisher? (for evaluating printed resources)
  • Does the author list her/his credentials (e.g., education, occupation, etc.) for being an authority on the material?
  • Does the author's e-mail address appear so you can contact her/him for further information?
  • Does the author note her/his institutional affiliation (university, government, organization, etc.)?


  • Is the purpose (to inform, persuade, entertain, etc.) apparent?
  • What topics are included?
  • Is the material sufficiently scholarly, yet not so complicated that you can't understand it?
  • Are the topics explored in appropriate depth?
  • If the material is available in both print and Web format, does coverage differ between versions?
  • Is supporting material (bibliographies, indexes, charts, maps, etc.) included and correctly attributed?
  • How comprehensive is the coverage of the material?


  • How reliable and free from error (typographically, factually, and conceptually) is the information?
  • Are the author's methods for obtaining data or conducting research clearly stated so that the study may be duplicated?
  • Does the author demonstrate knowledge of scientific theories and techniques?
  • Does the material include a bibliography?
  • For Web resources: Are the links to relevant information?
  • Is the material presented as fact or opinion?
  • To what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?
  • When was the material published?
  • For Web resources: Is the last update prominently noted?
  • Does the material present the latest thinking on the topic?

Organization/Ease of Use

These criteria apply mainly to websites

  • Does the organization of the material make sense?
  • Are ideas presented in a logically, clearly stated way?
  • Is the site easy to navigate?
  • Is the material easily accessible?
  • Do all the links work?
  • Do pages load quickly?
  • Are there other resources that present the same information, and how do they compare, generally, to this one?


  • Learning to make educated judgements about the veracity of information is a useful skill that will benefit you in the library, the classroom, the laboratory, and as a consumer of information in all forms.
  • Evaluation of print and web materials is an ongoing process.
  • Due to the continual evolution of the World Wide Web, resources that you find there should be evaluated as stringently as possible.
  • Never use information that you can't verify.


  • Jan Alexander and Marsha Tate at the Widener University Library
  • Carol Leita at California's InfoPeople Project
  • Trudi Jacobson and Laura Cohen at the University of Albany Library