The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
Source: Information literacy competency standards for higher education. (2000).
Here are some questions to guide you through the process of critical evaluation of information sources:
Evaluating the information you find in books, journals, and on the Internet is an important process in your academic work. Not all information sources will be authoritative, reliable, or well researched, but this does not mean they are not valuable for your field of study.
After completing this SECTION, you will be able to evaluate information critically by looking at:
You will learn tips on how to identify what type of information source you have found and how to evaluate the content of the source.
Primary sources of information are original materials that often convey new ideas, discoveries, or information. These sources originate from the time period under study. Examples of primary sources include:
Secondary sources of information are based on primary sources. They are generally written at a later date and provide some discussion, analysis, or interpretation of the original primary source. Examples of secondary sources include:
Tertiary sources of information are based on a collection of primary and secondary sources. Examples of tertiary sources include:
TIP: What is considered primary, secondary, or tertiary information may vary according to your field of study. When in doubt, ask your lecturer.
In academic research considerable emphasis is placed upon using scholarly materials. You may also see the terms academic, peer reviewed or refereed used to describe scholarly materials.
Scholarly, academic, refereed, or peer-reviewed journal articles:
Popular magazine articles:
TIP: In academic research there is a clear preference for refereed or scholarly material. However, there is also a role for non-scholarly material since it often reflects contemporary thought and is popular. Also, there may be little scholarly material available on a given topic. If you use sources such as newspapers or popular magazines, clearly point out that your information reflects a "commonly accepted position" but is "difficult to verify or refute".