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Evaluating Information

How do I identify scholarly resources?

Rules differ by discipline. Start with the general rules below and contact your subject specialist / Liaison Librarian for more help.

Scholarly sources are judged based in part on the following criteria:

  1. Authors: Check that an author is listed, that their credentials are included and that the credentials are relevant to the information provided.
  2. Publishers: Who is the publisher? Scholarly publishers are often academic, scholarly or professional organizations. If not, is the purpose for publishing evident?
  3. Audience: Who is the intended audience? Scholarly sources often use specific or technical knowledge aimed at individuals in a specific discipline.
  4. Content: Why has the information been written? Scholarly sources cite many sources and often include charts, graphs and tables. The content should document the claims being made and provide evidence to support conclusions.
  5. Currency: Currency may be important depending on the topic.

Terminology

Scholarly sources: includes academic, peer-reviewed and refereed sources. These are sources written by experts in their field. Scholarly sources can be in any format including books, journal articles and websites.

Peer reviewed / refereed: An article that has been peer reviewed has been reviewed by other experts in the field before publication. Used almost exclusively in reference to journal articles.

How can I judge the authority and credibility of information found on the web?

Norms may vary by discipline, start with the general guidelines below and follow up for more specific guidance from a subject specialist / liaison Librarian.

  1. Authority: Does the person, institution or agency providing the information have the knowledge and authority to do so? Look for clear information about who developed the information, contact information, credentials or information about the organization or overarching body that supports the site.
  2. Purpose: Why is the information on the web? To inform, persuade, entertain, sell you something? Consider how the purpose may influence the information.
  3. Currency: The importance of this aspect may differ by discipline, it is especially important in the fields of health and science. When was the information written, has it been updated recently, are the links all working?
  4. Objectivity: Does the information appear to be presented with a minimum of bias?
  5. Accuracy: Is the source of the information (references) provided? Does the information line up with what you have read elsewhere? Is the author associated with a well known and respected institution?

Evaluating Health Information on the Web

Telling good health information from bad on the web is a major issue of concern. There are multiple guides available to help searchers tell the difference, here are a few:

Evaluating Health Information Online - Canadian Public Health Association

Evaluating Health Information - A collection of resources from the National Library of Medicine

Copyright

Found a good source but have questions about how you can use it?

Check out the Copyright Information subject guide for tips. If, after browsing the guide, you still have questions contact MRUcopyright@mtroyal.ca or by phone 403.440.6618.

Chris Thomas's picture
Chris Thomas

Contact:
Email: cmthomas@mtroyal.ca
Phone: 403.440.8501 (not currently available)
Office: EL4423E