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Education Research

Library resources curated for disciplines within the School of Education @ IU Bloomington

Evaluating Sources: Key Questions


  • When was the source published?
  • Do you need current information?

Some research topics will require more up-to-date information than do others. (For example, scientific topics tend to require more current sources than do many humanities-focused topics.)


  • For whom is the source intended?
  • What is the publication's purpose or scope?
  • Is this a scholarly or popular source? A professional/trade journal?
  • Is the language difficult to understand? (If so, you may wish to first gather more background information or sources written for a general audience.) 


  • Is the content appropriate for your purpose?
  • What does the source add to an understanding of your topic or argument?
  • How does the source relate to other information you have found?
  • How does the source relate to your ideas or argument?
  • Is there a list of references? It can point you to other relevant sources.


  • What are the author's credentials or background in this area?
  • Has this author written other articles, papers, reports or books on this same topic?


  • Is the information primarily fact or opinion?
  • Does the author appear to have a strong bias, whether explicit or implied?
  • Does the author present multiple sides of issues?  A well-reasoned argument considers multiple viewpoints.
  • Is the information supported by other research?
  • Has this author provided sufficient evidence?
  • Does the author use highly charged or emotional language?

Writing Style

  • Are ideas logically and clearly presented?
  • Is the writing clear and grammatically correct?

Evaluating Search Results

Evaluating Search Results handout 

1. Before sifting through each record, study the information provided about the entire list of results.

Most databases give helpful information about your total search results. After entering a search, look on the results page for information about the entire results list and for options to limit the search.

Pay particular attention to information in menu bars (usually located in a left-hand side bar).

  • What does the information about your results tell you?
  • Do these look like the kinds of records you need?
  • Does the summary of your results offer any clues for how to refine your search?

After reviewing your overall search results, you may want to refine your search strategy to get more relevant results.

2. Evaluate individual information records.

Have a closer look at several individual records. Most database records include a title, subject terms that describe the item, and an abstract (or summary). Gather highly relevant sources, or if needed, revise your search strategy.

3. Next Steps: Once you start looking more carefully at individual sources, consider the questions on the handout “Evaluating Sources Rhetorically.”