Evaluating sources, whether they are primary or secondary, is an important part of the research process. Consider the following questions in order to effectively evaluate and gain a more critical understanding of your sources.
Who created the item? What is his or her affiliation? What is his or her relationship to the information contained in the source?
Audience and Purpose
Who is the intended audience? Why was the item created?
Perspective and Bias
How do the author's bias and perspective inform the arguments and evidence presented?
Accuracy and Completeness
Is the evidence reliable? Are the important points covered? How does the source compare to other similar sources? What may have been left out?
Footnotes and Documentation
Are the author's sources in secondary and reference literature clearly identified with complete citations to allow you to find the original source yourself?
Adapted from NYU's Primary Sources LibGuide and The Information-Literate Historian by Jenny L. Presnell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
To evaluate a blog, you apply the same criteria as you do to other sources (see above), but you should also consider some blog-specific criteria:
How sophisticated is the language and spelling? Is the writing in a rational tone? Does it contain definitions and explanations of terms?
Does the blog have a professional appearance? Does it incorporate visual elements that enhance the written content? Is it well-designed with good usability?
Is the blog useful for your academic research? Is it used by other reputable sources?
What is the influence of this blog on the topic of debate? Does the blog belong to a community, and where does it fit within that community? Is this blog linked to by many other blogs?
Adapted from "How to Evaluate Blogs for Academic Research" by Jill Borin & Molly Wolf, Widener University.
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