Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

DAL: Lee Online Students: Determining the Reliability of a Resource

Where to Start?

Not sure where to begin?

We recognize that many students will begin their search by performing an internet search for their topic.  So, let's learn how to determine if the information you find on the web is appropriate to use in your research.   

Let this be a beginning step in your research, not the only step.

Is the resource you've found on the web a good resource?  How can we tell?

  • Use the SIFT method to determine the credibility of information found on the web.
    • Stop - do not engage with the text until you get enough context about the text to determine if it is worth engaging with.
    • Investigate the source -
      • who is the author? 
      • what is the purpose of the source?
      • is it possibly written with a bias?
      • has it been reviewed and approved by experts in the field of study?
    • Find better coverage - find other resources about the topic from reliable sources.
    • Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context - backward searching.

Why might an Internet search be a good place to start? Discovery 

  • Learn the basics about your topic
  • Use what you have learned to inform your research.
  • Create a list of keywords related to your topic.
  • Develop your keywords in relation to what you want to learn about your topic.
  • Use the library's databases to provide direct access to academic, peer-reviewed materials.

 

Evaluation Criteria

To verify the reliability of your sources, ask yourself the following questions:

How?

How does this apply to your research?

Relevance

Does the work address your specific research question?

Scope

Does the work provide sufficient content?

Who?

Who is the author?

Why?

Why does this person have the authority to speak about this topic?

What?

What is the intention of this source? Is the author trying to persuade you or is the author presenting factual research?

When?

When was this piece written? Does the age of the source impact its relevancy to your topic?

 

Evaluation Criteria Tutorial

What is Peer Reviewed?

Determining the Reliability of a Resource

What makes a good resource?

Relevancy - Does this source deal specifically with your topic?

Scope - Does this source only mention your topic briefly or does a substantial portion of the resource discuss your topic?

Currency (as applicable to the topic) - When was this piece written? Does the age of the source affect its relevancy to your topic?

Credibility/Reliability - Who is the author?  Do they have the authority to speak about this topic?  What are the author’s credentials?  Has this resource been reviewed by other experts in this field of study?  

Purpose - Informative vs. Persuasive. What is the intention of this source? Is the author trying to persuade you or is the author presenting information? Is there a bias you should be mindful of?

 

 

Primary vs. Secondary Resources

Sources are divided into two main groups; primary and secondary.  

Primary sources provide a firsthand account or insiders look at a specific person, a specific time period or a specific event.  If a primary source could speak to us it would say, “I was there; this is my experience or my experiment.”  Examples of primary sources include diaries, personal journals, autobiographies, memoirs, personal correspondence, interviews, speeches, newspaper articles or news footage from a specific time in history, official records, original photographs, creative works such as plays, poetry, music or art, and also original research data.  Primary sources can be documents, photographs, film or video footage, and objects/artifacts.

A secondary source is an interpretation or analysis of one or more primary sources.  If a secondary source could speak to us it would say, “I wasn’t there but I have researched, studied, and analyzed this topic and these are my thoughts on the matter.” Examples of secondary resources include such publications as biographies, commentaries, criticisms, textbooks, articles, and critical essays. 

Example:   

      

The first book on the left, I am Not Spock, was written by Leonard Nimoy and is his personal account of his experiences of portraying the character of Spock in the television series Star Trek.  The next book, Star Trek: Movie Memories, was written by William Shatner who portrayed the character of Captain James T. Kirk and discusses his experiences during the creation of the Star Trek films.  Each of these sources say to us, "I was there; this is my experience."  These are primary sources.

The last book, Star Trek as Myth, is a collection of essays about Star Trek.  This book is comprised of the different authors' interpretations and analysis of the mythology of the television series and films.  This book says to us, “I wasn’t there but I have researched, studied, and analyzed this topic and these are my thoughts on the matter.”  This book is a secondary resource.

Evaluation Criteria Tutorial