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Visual Arts: Evaluating Sources

Information Evaluation

Information evaluation is a critical part of the research process. Applying a set of standards to information sources will help you judge their credibility and relevancy.

The evaluation process will depend on the purpose for which you are using the information. When researching for an academic project or looking for information to guide an important decision, you will want to carefully scrutinize information sources. You will also want to compare sources and draw on your own knowledge in your analysis of the topic.

Briggs Library's Research 101 guide describes how to use information about source types and using the criteria of currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose to evaluate sources.

Evaluation Criteria


Is the information up-to-date enough for my topic?

Rapid advancements in science necessitate looking for very current information when researching in this area. In other areas of study, older information may still be valued. Consult multiple sources to ascertain if there have been recent substantial developments in the field.


Does the information pertain to my topic and cover it in enough depth to meet my needs?

Identifying a work's intended audience can help in determining its depth of coverage. Information for the general public will vary in depth. Information for children will be simple, while information aimed at professionals may require advanced training to understand.


Who is responsible for the content and what are their qualifications?

The following reflect positively on an author's authority to write about a subject

    • author of multiple books and articles about the topic
    • professor of a subject related to the topic
    • affiliated with a recognized corporation, institution, or group in the field
    • employed in a capacity related to the subject matter

Publication by a scholarly press or being subject to the peer review process before publication also reflect positively on a work's authority.


Is the information reliable and free from error?

Authority often impact accuracy. Experts and respected organizations strive to produce works with accurate information.

Is there support for the information given?

Any author who borrows information from another source should give credit to the original source through citations and a list of references. Works striving for accuracy will identify what information is borrowed and give the reader a complete reference so that he or she can locate the original source.

Evaluate accuracy in terms of your whole research project.

    • Compare information with what you know about the topic
    • Compare information with other sources


Is the information presented without bias or is the bias acceptable for my purpose?

Why was the work created?  Is its purpose to entertain, inform or explain, persuade, sell products or services, or a combination of these things? A work's purpose will influence what information is included and how it is presented. If a work is meant to persuade, the work's authors may exclude information from detracts from their case or place more emphasis on information that supports their arguments.

Beware of hidden agendas

Some works may appear to be informative or explanatory when in fact they are expressing opinions or advocating for certain positions.

Using biased works

You may choose to use biased sites in your research. The important thing is to recognize that the works you are using are biased and to balance the information you find there with that found in other sources.


Research Help

Not finding what you need?

Contact your Subject Librarian for Help!

Visual Arts Librarian

Kristin Echtenkamp's picture
Kristin Echtenkamp
Briggs Library 123
Zoom Office Hours-Fall 2020
Mondays 3pm-5pm
Thursdays 9am -11am
Or by appointment
Phone: 605-688-5958
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