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Evaluating Resources

You can use this guide to find information on how to evaluate the resources you find and begin to ask yourself critical questions about what makes something authoritative for your research. This guide is primarily intended for students.

It's More Than Finding Sources

It is important to realize that when looking for quality, evidence-based resources it is not just about finding resources but about finding good resources. Use this guide to find information on what you need to think about when you are reviewing your results and look at the abstracts of your articles, the about pages of your resources, and the copyright/title pages of your books to help answer these questions.

What Types of Results am I Getting?

icons of word bubble with sound cloud. Meant to indicate different voices

It isn't just about thinking about how to evaluate the results, but also how to evaluate the types of results you are getting. Most academic/scholarly databases are populated by content that might have a high level of evidence because it has gone through a peer-review process, but many of the academic/scholarly resources have also been criticized for gate keeping and perpetuating a heteronormative, western, white, male-centric voice.

So when you are reviewing your results you might want to ask yourself - is there a perspective or a voice missing here?

If the answer is yes, how could you layer your research to search resources that are more patient-centric or non-traditional in addition to the scholarly/academic resources?

  • It’s okay to draw in resources that are from popular sources or non-academic ones, especially when researching a topic that might include cultural context or a group that has been marginalized by the academic and medical community, but keep in mind the context in which you will be using it and make sure the information can be verified.

How do You Start Evaluating Sources?

Icons of a notebook with pencil, person, building, and arrow. Meant to represent an author, audience, publisher/publication, and purpose.

You need to think about the:

  • Author: Are they a scholar? A medical professional? A journalist? What are their credentials?
  • Audience: Who was this written for? Medical professionals? Scholars? Popular consumption?
  • Publisher/Publication: What is the credibility of the institution or organization responsible for this information?
  • Purpose: Why was this written? To report insight in a particular field? To relay findings of a study? To relay news?

Evaluating the Science

Scientific research takes time and, in many cases, is measuring very specific variables. Exploratory studies usually need confirmation from further research. In addition, the media may misrepresent "conclusions." With this in mind, drawing concrete conclusions from only one study and citing news sources in your work can be problematic (though news sources are not always invalid).

To help you better understand and cite the science:

  • Find the original study or source
  • Scrutinize who conducted the study and if it is biased
  • Look at the sample size of a study
  • Distinguish what type of study was conducted

For more information check out these titles:

For more information on conducting studies with human subjects watch this video:

Preconceived Notions

It is important to consistently check your own biases and your own preferences for reading one source over another. If you are looking for information that merely supports what you think is or should be the case or aren't checking your own search biases then you are committing confirmation bias.

The Pew Research Center has done research on news audiences and has rated news sources by the ideological leanings of their followers. A chart of this information can be viewed at: Ideological Placement of Each Source’s Audience.

 

Student Success & Engagement Librarian

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Feel free to make a copy or re-use this page as long as you credit UNM HSLIC.

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This guide was created by a Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center staff member and is licensed by the Health Science Library and Informatics Center of the University of New Mexico under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.