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Research Guide for geography resources and tools

Evaluating Usefulness

  • Background
    • General information or factual evidence used to provide context.
  • Exhibit
    • Material to analyze or interpret. It may support or contradict your thesis or research question.
  • Analysis
    • Material that offers a critical assesment or makes a claim you would like to engage with.

The SMELL Test

  • Source.
    • Who is providing the information?
  • Motivation.
    • Why are they telling me this?
  • Evidence.
    • What evidence is provided for generalizations?
  • Logic.
    • Do the facts logically compel the conclusions?
  • Left out.
    • What’s missing that might change our interpretation of the information?

The SIFT Method

Evaluating Sources

  • Authorship
    • Who wrote it and what are their qualifications?
  • Date
    • Is the information current? Does it meet assigned time parameters? 
  • Content
    • Is the information well researched, contain footnotes, or give sources or have supporting data? 
  • Publisher
    • Who published this text?  Does this source typically give reliable information? 
  • Check for bias
    • Are alternate views presented & treated fairly?
  • Assess the argument
    • How is the claim supported? Are statistics used correctly? Are there logical fallacies?

Evaluating Sources: Links

Evaluating Sources: A Checklist

  • Who wrote the source?
  • What are the author’s qualifications?
  • Is a printed source from a reputable publisher?
  • Is a web-based source from a reputable site such as a well-known university?
  • Is the source sufficiently current?
  • Is the source sufficiently complete? 
  • What is the purpose of the source?  
  • Who is its intended audience?
  • Is the source scholarly or popular? Which type of source do you need?
  • Does the source present evidence to support its conclusions?
  • Is the source biased? Can you still use it?