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Bern Dibner Library of Science & Technology (Brooklyn)

An overview of library research and services for patrons of Dibner Library.

How Do I Know I can Trust the Information I Find?

Whether you find it online, in print, or in some other form, critical evaluation of information sources is an essential part of research.  First, be sure you know what type of information your instructor considers appropriate for your assignment. For instance, many instructors require the use of scholarly or scientific journal articles.

When evaluating the credibility of information there are several key areas to consider:

Authority

  • Who is the author? What are his or her credentials? Is the author associated with a reputable organization?
  • Who is the publisher? (Commercial publisher, university press, professional organization?)
  • What is the intent of the publisher? (Sell magazines, share research, promote a product?)

Objectivity

  • Does the author state the goals of this publication? (To inform, advocate, persuade?)
  • Does the author exhibit a bias or express opinions?
  • Is there any advertising presented with the information?
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched? Are conclusions supported by evidence?
  • Are authoritative sources cited?
  • Are opposing arguments addressed?

Quality

  • What type of source is it? (Book, magazine, journal, web site?)
  • Is it well organized and clearly written? Are arguments presented logically?
  • Is the information accurate? Are facts documented?
  • Are graphics clearly presented?

Coverage

  • How in-depth is the material?
  • Does it offer information not found elsewhere?
  • Is the material primary or secondary in nature?

Currency

  • How recently was the research done and the work published?
  • Is your topic one that requires current information?
  • Has the source been revised or updated?