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HUMN 3H World Myths in Literature, Arts & Film: Evaluating 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

Google Tips

Google logo

Most of us love to search Google because it's fast, free, and easy, but one common complaint is that the number of search results is overwhelming. Try these tips to limit your searches.

  • For more precise searches enter allintitle: before your search terms.
  • To limit to a particular domain, enter site: before the domain, e.g. site:.edu or site:.gov.
  • Use Google's Advanced Search and learn more on their Help page.

How to Evaluate a Source

The following is a list of questions based on five criteria (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) to help you determine if the sources you found are accurate and reliable.  Keep in mind that the following list is not static or complete. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.

Key: An asterisk (*) indicates that criterion is for Web sources only

Currency: The timeliness of the information.
  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional? *
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Authority: The source of the information.
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com, .edu, .gov, .org, .net *
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content.
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased or free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists.
  • What is the purpose of the information? To inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda? Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Adapted from The CRAAP Test by Sarah Blakeslee at Chico State's Meriam Library.

More Resources

Because anyone can post anything on the Web and there is no quality control, it is important to evaluate any website you may use in your research. The following sites can help you evaluate the accuracy, reliability, and currency of information in general, and Internet sources in particular.

Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask, from UC Berkeley.

Evaluating Sources, both print and Internet, from the Purdue OWL.

Internet Research: What’s Credible? Films on Demand

Wikipedia

Should you use Wikipedia?
Hear what Stephen Colbert has to say.