Now that you've found your sources, it's important to review them for quality and determine if they are a good fit for your project or paper.
It's important to remember that while these strategies are extremely helpful for analyzing research content, they're also really useful for any kind of information needs -- from articles in trade publications to information shared on social media to your own personal research.
These strategies will help you look beyond less important surface features of an information source (for example, how professional it looks or if it's a .org), and think more carefully about who is behind the source, what their purpose is, and how trustworthy and credible they are. The SIFT model (from Mike Caulfield) provides a framework for thinking critically about information:
Pause and ask yourself if you recognize the information source and if you know anything about the website or the claim's reputation.
If not, use the four moves (below) to learn more. If you start getting too overwhelmed during the other moves, pause and remember your original purpose.
Take a minute to identify where this information comes from and to consider the creator's expertise and agenda. Is this source worth your time? Look at what others have said about the source to help with you these questions. (For example, a company that sells health food products is not the best source for information about health benefits/risks of consuming coconut oil. A research study funded by a pharmaceutical company is also suspect.)
Find Better Coverage
Sometimes it's less important to know about the source and more importance to assess their claim. Look for credible sources; compare information across sources and determine whether there appears to be a consensus.
Trace Claims to Original Source
Sometimes online information has been removed from its original context (for example, a news story is reported on in another online publication or an image is shared on Twitter). If needed trace the information back to the original source in order to recontextualize it.
modified from this source (Andrea Baer and Dan Kipnis, Rown University)
Want to learn more about fact checking and verifying claims? Check out this short, self-paced course, to find out how to fact and source-check (each lesson takes about 30 minutes apiece). The guide below also provides additional guidance.
I have a list of results. How do I further narrow that list down to sources I might use?
The best way to do that is to read the whole article or book. However, during the research process, there isn’t always time to do that. Whenever possible, you should take advantage of tools such as subject headings/descriptors and abstract.
A subject heading (sometimes known as a descriptor) is a standardized term, usually a word or a phrase used to describe what the article or book is about. There are usually several subject headings per book or article. Subject headings exist in order to organize a collection of information. Consider using subject headings you find as search terms.
An abstract is a short summary of what the article or book is about.
Other tools for books you should use are a table of contents and the index once you find the book on shelf.