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
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
How reputable is the publisher? (for evaluating printed
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.)
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
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
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
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
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
Carol Leita at California's InfoPeople Project
Trudi Jacobson and Laura Cohen at the University of Albany