You have found information on your topic and now you need to evaluate whether it is appropriate to use for your assignment or research. 

Critically evaluating information resources is an essential skill for students undertaking academic research.  This guide provides some starting points for evaluating and assessing the information you have found. The techniques apply to both internet resources and more traditional formats such as journals, newspapers, magazines and books.

Watch the video or use the evaluation tables to check the reliability and usefulness of your resource:


Evaluating information sources (YouTube, 3m)

Is the information reliable and useful for your assignment or research?

Points to consider LEAST likely to be reliable May be reliable MOST likely to be reliable
Where did you find the information? On the web e.g. via Google, Facebook etc Library Search Library Search or database with peer reviewed or scholarly filter on
Who is the author (individual or organization/association)? No author details are provided The author’s qualifications/ credentials/ professional affiliations are given; contact information is available My lecturer has recommended this author
Intended audience Biased towards particular groups General public Academics or scholars
Purpose Designed to sell something; present one viewpoint; written on behalf of a religious or political group Reports on research Presents research findings
Depth of coverage Superficial overview Evidence of analysis A systematic and rigorous discussion and analysis
Accuracy Spelling or grammatical errors;  obvious omissions Facts and figures supported by evidence Peer reviewed or refereed
Writing style Inflammatory or sensational; low level or inappropriate for your discipline Organized logically and clearly presented Organized logically and clearly presented; Language used may require some subject knowledge to understand
Relevance Too basic or too advanced  Relates to aspects of my topic e.g. location, group or focus Focus on my topic is appropriate for my needs; meets the marking criteria for my assessment
How up to date is it? The importance of timeliness depends on your subject area e.g. Health or medicine requires current information; literature or art may not No date information available; published or updated more than 5 years ago; newer editions or revisions exist Published or updated in the last 5 years Published or updated recently; published in the time frame my lecturer requires
Does it have a bibliography or reference list? No reference list; references are out-of-date; or the references are not scholarly or reliable A reference list of recognizably reliable sources is provided e.g. Australian Bureau of Statistics In-text references and Reference List/Bibliography of scholarly sources (journal articles, books, conference papers) is provided
Who published it? Unknown A reputable publisher An academic publisher which uses a peer review process (Check the publisher’s website)

Extra indicators to consider for websites

Points to consider:

LEAST likely to be reliable May be reliable MOST likely to be reliable

What kind of website is it?

Look at the URL or address

.com is a commercial site .net is a private business or association (Check the About us information on the site) .edu or .ac is an educational institution;
.gov is a government site;
.org is an organisation (Not all .org sites are the official sites. Check the About us information on the site)
Is the website maintained? Last updated date is old; many broken links   Last updated information is recent; all the links work
Layout of the website Amateurish User-friendly User-friendly and professional

What country does the site come from?

This may affect the relevancy of the information, depending on your topic. Look at the URL or address for the country code, such as .fr for France, .au for Australia. View a list of country codes

Website originates from a country that will not be relevant for my topic   Based in a country that will be relevant to my topic

Citing information

You must cite any information sources you use correctly to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

Our Referencing style guides provides information on how to do this.