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How to search – step by step

Tags: English

Evaluation of sources

A critical attitude

It is very important to develop a critical approach towards the different documents and publications you will find during the information searching process.

This is equally important whether the publication is in printed or digital form. As early as the planning stage, it will be of great value to reflect upon the authenticity and credibility of the sources you are planning to use.

When you evaluate your material, make sure to pay attention to:


Who is the author? Is the author well-known within the discipline? Can you find any information about the author's affiliation (research institution, organization, etc.)? Is the author mentioned in other publications?


Who has published the document? Is it an academic publisher or a publishing company that is well-known within the discipline? If it is a web document you are about to evaluate, try to analyze the URL or web address. The web address includes, among other things, a domain name and geographical code, which may give information about where the author works.

Purpose and intended audience

For what purpose is the text written? Try to figure out if the author is writing with the purpose of informing, influencing or provoking the reader. For whom is the text written? Is it adjusted to a specific target group and is it in accordance with your own information needs? Keep in mind that the same researcher may write about findings in a language that is either of a more academic or popular science style.


When was the text written and does this have any importance for the purposes of your work? See if there are any newer editions of the book, or if the author has written a more recent article about the same subject. The publishing date of web documents may sometimes be a bit more difficult to locate, but in many cases there will be information about when the page was last updated. However, it can still be difficult to see what and how much of an online text has been updated.


The references cited in the text indicate what research the author has considered. References can include both research the author is critical about as well as research used to support the author's own arguments.


Is the document published in its original form, or is it a revision of material published earlier? Is the problem you are searching information about the central focus of the text? Does the content of the text correlate with other documents within the subject field or does the author hold a different standpoint?

Is the data used in the document correct? For example, check if the statistical data is reliable, and that any comparisons made in the text are based on the same statistical data.