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PLS 3004C Principles of Plant Science

Criteria for Evaluating a Resource

Evaluate each resource, whether it is print or online, by these 5 criteria to determine if it is high quality and a good match for your project or paper.

  • Authority
    Who created the resource? Are the author, organization, affiliations, and publisher clearly shown? If the page is web-based, do hyperlinks provide  information about the organization? Does the author have credentials or expertise in the subject matter? Is the resource from a government agency, university, company, non-profit organization?

  • Accuracy
    Is the information contained in the source properly cited? Is there a bibliography or reference list? Can you verify the information in other sources? Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? Is the statistical data clearly explained? Are charts and graphs properly represented and cited?

  • Objectivity
    Is the resource free of advertising? Or, if there is advertising, is it clearly separate from content? Is there any bias in the content? Is the sponsoring organization motivated to report facts from a particular perspective?

  • Currency
    How current is the content? When was the information gathered? When was the resource created? When was it last updated or revised? 

  • Coverage
    Is the information complete? Does it cover the subject in depth? Does it match your information needs?

    These criteria were adapted from a worksheet used by the Widener Science Library of Harvard.


Is it a primary source?

Q. What is a primary source?

Primary source materials are the original documents, created by participants or eye-witnesses. Diaries, letters, interviews are all primary sources. In the sciences, data, lab notebooks, and original test protocols could be considered primary documents. For example, in Computer Science source code or release notes are primary documents. In Biology, field observations or images are considered primary documents.

Q. What is a secondary source?

Secondary source materials describe, analyze or interpret primary source documents.  Examples include textbooks, encyclopedia, commentaries and reviews.

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