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Evaluate Sources

ABCD Icons - see caption

Evaluate Sources Using the ABCD Method

Author

  • Who are the author(s)? Are they experts and qualified to write on the topic?  What are their credentials?  Are they affiliated with any organizations or a university?

  • Who is the publisher? Where was the information published?  Was it published in a peer-reviewed journal?  

  • Do a little investigating on the author and source to make sure the information provided can be considered reputable.

Bias

  • Look for any bias in the information.  Does the information presented cover all sides of the topic in a neutral, objective manner?  What is the purpose of this information… to inform, teach, persuade, or sell?

Content

  • Critically evaluate the actual content of the document.  Is the information provided as a superficial overview or a detailed analysis?  Is the information relevant to your topic or does it deviate too much?  Is the readership level too simple or too sophisticated?

  • Also, focus on the accuracy of the content.  Does the information match your understanding of the topic and can you verify the claims in other sources?  Compare its findings to those of other related articles.  Do not rely on only one source.

Date

  • Consider when was the information was published, updated, or revised.  Has the information become outdated?  

  • Also, look at the date of the references/citations provided.  Are those sources/studies reputable and timely?

Developing your topic

Broadening/Narrowing Your Topic

If your topic is too narrow, you might not find enough information. You can broaden it by exploring related issues, comparing it with a related issue, increasing the time span or population covered.  You might also find that your topic is too recent to be covered in academic journals.  

If your topic is too broad, you might find too much information.  You can narrow your focus by limiting the population or time period covered or by looking at a smaller piece or specific angle of the topic.

The document below is a guide intended to help you narrow or broaden your research topic.

Background Research

Sources such as encyclopedias and hot topics databases can be good places to get a sense of what some of the areas of interest within your topic are. 

Keywords Based Searching

Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Check out this page for more information about using keywords in your searches.

Statistical Data

Articles: best databases to use

Database searching is good for looking for materials on a specific topic in many different journals at the same time.  These databases don't use phrase searching, so be sure to break your searches into the main ideas or keywords. 

Identifying scholarly sources

Scholarly articles are written by professors, scholars, or other experts in a field and are written for other experts.  They are published in scholarly/academic/peer-reviewed journals.  They are evaluated by other experts before they are published to ensure that they are of high quality. You can access scholarly articles in the research databases. For more information on evaluating scholarly articles, check out 

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