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Evaluating Information Sources: Relevance

Tips for evaluating print and online information sources.


Relevance of the Document to Your Information Needs

Questions to Ask:

  • Is the information you found relevant and useful for your topic and assignment?
  • Does it answer a question you have about your topic?
  • Do you need general or scholarly information?
  • Do you need primary or secondary sources of information?
  • Is the coverage appropriate or is it too broad or too specific?  

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources are original documents or objects that provide first-hand information such as diaries, letters, memoirs, speeches, interviews, eye witness accounts, original artwork, photographs, audio or video recordings.

Secondary sources are secondhand accounts that interpret, analyze, and discuss primary sources.


Why Use a Database?

Why use a database rather than Google? A database is more likely to provide you with relevant information of a scholarly nature that is appropriate to college-level research projects.

Databases ...

  • generally contain high-quality information
  • contain peer-reviewed articles
  • contain articles by known authors
  • contain scholarly information
  • are subject-specific
  • support refined searching

The free Web ...

  • offers free access (you get what you pay for!)
  • is not quality controlled
  • is rarely peer-reviewed
  • doesn't always list authors' names
  • contains mostly popular (non-specialized) information
  • has limited search capabilities