Evaluating Resources for your Research Assignments

What to consider when determining if a source is credible and relevant for your research topic

Where's the Evidence?

illustration three people looking at a graph with data points

Consider the type of evidence the author provides 

A credible resource will always cite their sources, whether that's a journalist providing a direct quote from someone, a scientist citing their research findings along with other similar studies, or a student citing one of their textbooks to support their opinions on a topic. If someone is claiming something, there has to be evidence to support their claims. 

You should also be able to find the same information and facts in other publications. If you are unsure about something you read, google it and see what others have to say about it. If multiple credible sources are saying the same thing (ex: multiple websites, dictionaries, and encyclopedias will all say that James Baldwin was born in 1924), that's a good indication that the information is credible. 

Examples of providing evidence

Here are some examples of providing evidence for a claim: 

Analyzing three sources
Quote Analysis Source

"Other experts have reservations about the hypothesis.

Jean-Alix Barrat, a geochemist at the University of Western Brittany in France and one of the few aubrite experts in the world, does not think there is enough aubritic material in meteorite collections to work out whether their contents match with models of the super Mercury.

'The authors are a little bit optimistic,” he said. “The data they use is not sufficient to validate their conclusions.'"

In this news article, the reporter is discussing the possibility that meteorites from the planet Mercury are unknowingly housed in different museums.

In this quote, the author says "other experts have reservations" and then provides a quote from an expert who has reservations.

This quote from Dr. Barrat is the author's evidence to the claim that some experts have reservations. 

O'Callaghan, J. (2022, May 23). Shards of the Planet Mercury May be Hiding on Earth. The New York Times.

 

"In Europe and the United States, using a search engine often means using Google, with market shares of 90% and 64%, respectively, and Google.com outranks most other sites by volume of traffic (Alexa 2018; Statista 2017)."  In this scholarly article, the author makes the claim that Google is the most widely used search engine. They then back up this claim by citing two different studies, one by Alexa from 2018 and by Statista in 2017. These sources are also then listed in the full citations list at the end of the article.  Cornelius Puschmann (2019) Beyond the Bubble: Assessing the Diversity of Political Search Results, Digital Journalism, 7:6, 824-843, DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2018.1539626
"Since many models use polls from the beginning of the modern primary era in 1972, there are a mere 12 examples of past presidential elections with dependable polling data. That means there are only 12 chances to test assumptions and outcomes, though it’s unclear what in practice that would involve."

This is an opinion piece where the author is arguing that election forecasts are unreliable and irrelevant. The author provides a citation via linking to a election forecast website that states that they use poll data starting in 1972. This provides evidence for her claim that election forecasters only use data from 12 election cycles. 

More context: U.S. presidential elections happen every 4 years. 1972 was 50 years ago, therefore we've had 12 presidential elections since 1972. 

Tufekci, Z. (2020, November 4). Opinion | Can We Finally Agree to Ignore Election Forecasts? The New York Times.
 
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