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Library Research Guides

Green Indigeneities: English 317/AmCult 301

A research guide for Susan Najita's Fall 2013 class.

Thinking critically about information sources

Regardless of your source, you will want to think critically about the information that you are using. Depending on what you want to know, scholarly, trade, or popular literature sources may be appropriate for use.  And some sources might not be considered "literature" at all, as we normally think about it.  Consider information conveyed on websites, doctors' offices, school assemblies, community meetings, and on social media sites. How might you evaluate information gleaned from non-scholarly sources?

It is especially important to think critically about information found on the open web, since information about sources, authority, objectivity, currency can be opaque. 

However, it is a useful exercise to think critically about any source in context.  An excellent source of information for answering one question may be a terrible source for another.

Judging what you find

Because there is no review process or regulation for the public Web, you will need to judge for yourself the quality of the material you find. Keep in mind these questions:



Is this a scholarly or popular source? What sources does it use? Can you verify those sources? Are they appropriate to the type of information? Does the information presented seem accurate?


Who is the author? What expertise does he or she have on this topic? Who sponsors the site? Check the domain name to see if it is a university, business, organization, or an individual


Is this site focused on factual information or opinion? What is the stated purpose of the site? Check the “About...” link if there is one. What position or opinion is presented and does it seem biased? What kind of sites does this one link to?


On what date was the page created? Do you need more current information? Is it a static source, or is it being updated? Do links on the site still connect to their destination?


Would you quote information from this site in a college research paper? If not, how would you use the information in this source?