Scholarship is a conversation. Knowledge is built over time as people put new ideas forward, respond to the ideas of others, and collaborate.
As you participate in this conversation you will critically evaluate the work of others, identify gaps in the existing knowledge base and/or issues that have not been resolved, and lend your own perspective.
Following are criteria for evaluating the contributions of others, and for identifying authoritative sources and authors within a discipline. It is your responsibility as part of this process to seek out diverse points of view and to cite the works of others (see the MLA Style section of this guide).
Currency: Is the publication or posting date appropriate? Has it been updated? Medical, technology, & certain topics require more currency than others.
Relevance: How well does the source specifically address your research concepts? Does it address part or all of your topic question? Is the work written for an appropriate audience level? What age group is targeted or level of professional expertise is required for understanding the writing, for example.
Authority: Who is the creator (author, editor, organization, publisher, etc.)? What level of expertise do they have? What type of authority do they have--subject expertise, societal position, special experience? How does this creator apply or relate to the other evaluation criteria?
Accuracy: Is it easy to verify the information supplied in the source? Look for works cited lists, statistics, charts, & tables. Also look for information about publishers and other organizations affiliated with source--this could be funders, other sponsors, and corporate bodies.
Purpose: What is the goal or purpose of the creator? Is the creator up front about the purpose? What is the goal or purpose of other organizations affiliated with the source? Do they wish to inform, persuade, entertain, teach, sell? Do they seek to misinform or propagandize? Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or other personal biases present? Is the point of view impartial and objective?
Process: What is the process necessary for creating and/or publishing the source? Is there a quality control process in place such as peer review or editorial oversight? What is the timeline for creating or publishing the source? Is it instantaneous so that it represents the most current events? Or does the process take time, so that the information is dated? Keep in mind that the sources with the highest quality control processes often take the longest to create/publish--as a result, they will not necessarily be the most up to date. Each information process has strengths and weaknesses.