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Law Guide: Evaluating your Sources

This guide is designed to help you start your legal and law library research.

What is Source Evaluation?

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Source evaluation is the process of critically evaluating information in relation to a given purpose in order to determine if it is appropriate for the intended use.

Why Evaluate Sources?

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Lecturers expect students to use scholarly sources: using better sources often results in better grades!

Information can be out-of-date, inaccurate, and even purposely misleading (such as propaganda).

Some forms of information, such as websites, allow anyone to contribute content or exist only to sell products or ads by generating traffic.

The 5 Ws when Evaluating Sources

How to Evaluate Sources

Evaluate

 

As a student you know that your work is to evaluate the sources you use for your papers, presentations and research. But how do you do it?

These steps are most appropriate for evaluating sources:

1. Credentials
What does the author know about the subject?
2. Objectivity
Does the author have an agenda?
3. Documentation
Where did the author get the information?
4. Timeliness
When was the material written?
5. Review and Editing
Has the material been reviewed for publication?

Is it Scholarly & Peer-Reviewed?

    Is it Scholarly & Peer-Reviewed?

Peer review is a publication process that ensures contributions made to the scholarly community are based on accurate, reliable, and original research findings and analysis:

   1) Scholar(s) writes and submits article to an academic journal.

   2) The academic journal sends the research article to a panel of experts in the subject area or discipline.

   3) Experts review the article to ensure it is accurate,well-argued, and presents original research-based knowledge.

   4) Article is accepted for publication, returned to the author(s) for revisions, or rejected.

What is a Scholar?

A highly educated specialist who conducts research in a particular branch of study.

What is Peer Review?

The process by which scholars critically evaluate each other's research article prior to publication in an academic journal.

What is a Periodical?

A type of publication produced as an open- ended series at regular intervals, or “periods,” such as daily, monthly, quarterly or annually.

What is an Academic Journal?

A type of periodical that includes original research articles written by researchers and experts in a particular academic discipline, providing a forum for the production and critique of new and existing knowledge.

What is a Research Article?

A formally written article that describes new knowledge or ideas based on original research, analysis and/or interpretation

Questions to Ask

When choosing a resource or website, use your critical thinking skills and the 5 Ws.

  • Who wrote this? 

  • What is the purpose of the resource? 

  • When was the resource published?

  • Where is the information from?

  • Why is this resource reliable?

Evaluating Sources Using the CRAAP Test

It is important to evaluate where and what you search and find.  One way to do this is to try out the CRAAP test for websites, books, articles and a range of resources.

Relevancy

Currency relates to the timeliness of the resources

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is it important to have current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are all the links working?

Relevance relates to the importance of the information to you

  • Does the information relate to your research or answer your question?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level, i.e., not too simple or too advanced for your needs?
  • Have you looked at a range of of sources to be able to judge that this sources is relevant?
  • Are you comfortable citing this as a reputable source for your research paper?

Authority relates to the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/?
  • What are the author's/organisation's credentials?
  • Is the source trustworthy or qualified to write on the subject?
  • Is there contact information and is it easy find out more about the author/organisation?
  • If it is a website, what does the URL ( .com .ac .gov .org .net) say about the source?

Accuracy relates to the reliability of the resource  

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by correct evidence?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another reliable source?
  • Does the language or tone seem balanced, unbiased and free from errors?

Purpose relates to the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? (i.e. inform, argue, teach, sell, entertain, persuade)?
  • Is the purpose clear and the point of view impartial or are there biases?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?