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CITING YOUR SOURCES: Evaluating Resources

Resources to help you properly cite using MLA, APA, and other style formats.

About

The questions on this page should help you explain why a particular source is a good fit for your research assignment.

Quick Guide

When you encounter any kind of source, consider:

  1. Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view? 
  2. Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
  3. Publication & format- Where was it published? In what medium?
  4. Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
  5. Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
  6. Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?

Slow Guide

Authority

  • Who is the author?
  • What else has the author written?
  • In which communities and contexts does the author have expertise?
    • Does the author represent a particular set of world views? 
    • Do they represent specific gender, sexual, racial, political, social and/or cultural orientations?
    • Do they have a formal role in a particular institution, organization, or company?
      (e.g. a professor at Yale or a physician at the Mayo Clinic) 

Purpose

  • Why was this source created?
    • Does it have an economic value for the author or publisher? 
    • Is it an educational resource? Persuasive?
      • What (research) questions does it attempt to answer?
      • Does it strive to be objective?
    • Does it fill any other personal, professional, or societal needs?
  • Who is the intended audience?
    • Is it for scholars?
    • Is it for a general audience?

Publication & format

  • Where was it published?
  • Was it published in a scholarly publication, such as an academic journal?
    • Who was the publisher? Was it a university press?
    • Was it formally peer-reviewed?‚Äč
  • Does the publication have a particular editorial position?
    • Is it generally thought to be a conservative or progressive outlet?
    • Is the publication sponsored by any other companies or organizations? Do the sponsors have particular biases?
  • Were there any apparent barriers to publication?
    • Was it self-published?
    • Were there outside editors or reviewers?
  • Where, geographically, was it originally published, and in what language?
  • In what medium?
    • Was it published online or in print? Both?
    • Is it a blog post? A YouTube video? A TV episode? An article from a print magazine?
      • What does the medium tell you about the intended audience? 
      • What does the medium tell you about the purpose of the piece?

Relevance

  • How is it relevant to your research?
    • Does it analyze the primary sources that you're researching?
    • Does it cover the authors or individuals that you're researching, but different primary texts?
    • Can you apply the authors' frameworks of analysis to your own research?
  • What is the scope of coverage?
    • Is it a general overview or an in-depth analysis?
    • Does the scope match your own information needs?
    • Is the time period and geographic region relevant to your research?

Date of Publication 

  • When was the source first published?
  • What version or edition of the source are you consulting?
    • Are there differences in editions, such as new introductions or footnotes?
    • If the publication is online, when was it last updated?
  • What has changed with the topic or issue since the publication date?

Documentation 

  • Did they cite their sources?
    • If not, do you have any other means to verify the reliability of their claims?
  • Who do they cite?
    • Is the author affiliated with any of the authors they're citing?
    • Are the cited authors part of a particular academic movement or school of thought?
  • Look closely at the quotations and paraphrases from other sources:
    • Did they appropriately represent the context of their cited sources?
    • Did they ignore any important elements from their cited sources?
    • Are they cherry-picking facts to support their own arguments?
    • Did they appropriately cite ideas that were not their own?

Searching Tips

To find out more about an author: 
Google the author's name or dig deeper in a library biography database: Biography Reference Bank or Biography Reference Center.

To find scholarly sources: 
When searching library article databases, look for a checkbox to narrow your results to Scholarly, Peer Reviewed or Peer Refereed publications.

To evaluate internet sources: 
The internet is a great place to find both scholarly and popular sources, but it's especially important to ask questions about authorship and publication when you're evaluating online resources. If it's unclear who exactly created or published certain works online, look for About pages on the site for more information, or search for exact quotations from the text in Google (using quotation marks) to see if you can find other places where the work has been published.

Videos on Source Credibility

View either of the YouTube videos below to help you understand what makes a source or website credible.

Building Better Google Searches

To find information from only GOVERNMENT websites, include "site:gov" along with your keywords in the Google search box.

drunk driving site:gov

 

To find information from only ORGANIZATIONS, include "site:org" along with your keywords in the Google search box.

obesity children site:org

 

To find information from only EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, include "site:edu" along with your keywords in the Google search box.

student stress  site:edu

Attribution

The above web content has been adapted from "Evaluating Resources" by UC Berkeley Library and is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 (CC-BY-NC) licencse.

Honolulu Community College Library
874 Dillingham Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96817
Email: honcclib@hawaii.edu Web: http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/library