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Library Resources for Medicine & Empire, Spring 2024: Evaluate Sources


Once you find sources, you will need to decide which sources to use. You will need to determine whether a source is credible and accurate, and whether it is relevant to your topic. The evaluation process will ensure that your cited sources are doing work for you, which will make the writing process easier. If in doubt, reach out to a librarian!​​​​​​

Scholarly Evaluation

See the tab "Find Journal Articles" if your professor has asked you to include "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" sources. In databases, ensuring your sources are "scholarly" is often as simple as selecting a filter or adding a search criteria.

However, a source being scholarly does not always mean it is perfect, or perfect for your research paper.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating research material:

  • Who is the author and what is their affiliation?
  • Where is the material published? Is there an editorial board?
  • When was it published?
  • How did the author gather their data? Is it quantitative or qualitative?
  • What other sources are cited?

Another important element to determine content relevancy is the audience and discipline. See the box to the right for more details.

Additional information

Evaluating Audience & Discipline

Let's say you conducted a keyword search and found sources that look good for your research topic. Using the publication evaluation metric, you can also unpack information about the intended audience. Consider this scenario:

  • one article is published by the journal Visual Communications
  • one article is published by the journal Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology

First, it can be helpful to use Google (yes!) to find information about your sources. For instance, Google search shows that Visual Communications publishes in the discipline of "theory, research, practical criticism, and creative work in all areas of visual communication," while Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology publishes "all aspects of clinical practice and research." 

Therefore, the audience for one journal is visual artists, and for the other clinical ophthalmologists.

Unless it is on purpose, including two sources from extremely different areas of study could weaken your argument and/or make writing your paper difficult.

Evaluation Worksheet

One way to keep track of source evaluation is with a worksheet. The chart below is an example of evaluation metrics that you could keep track of for each of your potential sources, with sample data from two scholarly journal articles.

A version of this worksheet is available for download below, as a .docx file.

# Citation Discipline(s) Represented Type of Source Key Ideas  How will you use this source?
1 Casson, Robert J., and Salmaan Al-Qureshi, ‘The Scientific Journal in the Post-Truth Era’, Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology, 48.2 (2020), 153–54. Ophthalmology Editorial in a scholarly journal N/A - out of scope

2 Perlmutter, David D., and Nicole Smith Dahmen, ‘(In)Visible Evidence: Pictorially Enhanced Disbelief in the Apollo Moon Landings’, Visual Communication, 7.2 (2008), 229–51. Media studies Scholarly journal article [Add quotes and paraphrasing here.]


Method (theory, perspective, style)

Evidence/data (build, interpret, analyze)

Argument (agree, dispute, qualify)

You could also keep track of evaluation criteria in citation management software, such as Zotero and EndNote. See the tab "Cite Your Work!" for more information.