For each resource you find you must evaluate both its academic rigor and its value to your particular assignment. Ask yourself a series of questions regarding each of your resources:
Can you identify the author of your information source? If no author is given, is an editor or editorial team listed?
If you found your resource in a scholarly journal, an academic publisher's eBook, or a library database, you're on the right track. Not all journals and publications are equal, but those designed for academics are held to a higher standard than many open websites.
That said, many more OER (open educational resources) are available now for free on the open web. These may be written by academics as well. Identify the source of your resource. Again, look at the About Us section of a webpage for further information on what entity produced the resource.
What is the name of the journal in which it was published? Look that journal up and see what is required to meet their publication standards. If it is peer-reviewed, blind peer-reviewed, or "referreed," it has gone through a stringent process of review by experts in a field.
Every library database and book resource shows the date of publication in its catalog record. Look for this date! If a resource was published back in the 1950s that might give you pause. Then again, if it was a massively important piece of research in its time, and if many more pieces of research have sprung from it, then it might still be worth using.
In general, though, you want up-to-date information. Just how long ago was your information resource created? There could have been more discoveries and newer ideas about your topic if the info source you chose to use is older.
When evaluating websites or any other information sources, you can also use the CRAAP test to help evaluate the information you find. Keep in mind that some items are specific to websites. This isn't so much a checklist as a way of considering information sources in context. In addition to CRAAP, there is the ABC method of evaluation for websites, which looks at authority, bias, and credibility. You will find more on the ABC method in the Evaluating Websites section of this resource guide.
Currency: The timeliness of the information.
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
Authority: The source of the information.
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
The CRAAP test is provided by the Meriam Library California State University, Chico
All guides are available under the CC-BY-NC-SA license.