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Ezra's Research Diary: Tried and True Strategies for Effective Undergraduate Research: Evaluate Sources

This library guide is designed to help students understand the overall process of undergraduate research at Cornell.

Ready Resources

There are a variety of criteria by which you can evaluate your sources. Some of the major ones include:
  • accuracy
  • audience
  • authority
  • balance
  • bias/point of view
  • bibliography/references
  • convenience/accessibility
  • coverage
  • currency
  • depth
  • objectivity
  • organization
  • peer reviewed
  • primary sources used
  • publisher/publication (reputation of)
  • relevance
  • scholarly?
  • uniqueness
  • validity
  • visuals

What does it all mean?!

Now that you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips, it's time to determine whether or not you can use them in your research. Consider some of the criteria in the list to the left. You may not use all of these criteria for each resource you find, and some will be more important than others, depending on the nature of your project. 

PACAC Method

It's important to consider all of the criteria listed to the left. Evaluation does take time, however. In the initial stages of your research, you might consider using an abbreviated version of the criteria to the left: the PACAC Method*.

Purpose: What is the author's intent? To inform, instruct, educate, entertain, inspire, promote, persuade? What tact is he/she using? An appeal to emotion, morals, or logic?

Authority: Does the author have the necessary credentials or academic affiliation? Has the author written other scholarly, peer-reviewed books or articles on the topic? Does he/she have life experiences that inform his/her claims? 

Currency: (this, of course, varies depending on what you are studying) If you are doing historical research, you may want to use primary sources from the historical period you are studying. In other instances, you might need to consult the most-recently published resources in your field. (Take note of copyright dates or "last updated" dates at the bottom of webpages.)

Accuracy: Is the information provided correct? Has the book or article undergone peer review for fact checking and approval of methodolog(ies)? 

Content: Is the content relevant to your research question? Does it answer or address the questions that you have?

*For more on the PACAC Method, see: Quaratiello, A. & Devine, J. (2011). The college student’s research companion: Finding, evaluating, and citing the resources you need to succeed. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers.


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