To properly evaluate articles you need to apply the following 4 criteria:
Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose
When was the information published? Has it been revised or updated?
Do you need the most recent information possible? For a history project on ancient Greece the currency may not be important. If you’re writing about recent events you’ll want more current information, possibly using newspapers as well as popular and news magazines.
- When was the article published? Look for the publication information at the top or bottom of the page.
- Check the dates of the citations included in the references, bibliography, or works cited.
Is the information accurate? Where does it come from?
- Check for in-text citations or footnotes. Is there a list of notes, references or a bibliography?
- Are graphs, charts, and statistics provided to back up the author’s claims?
- Have you seen this information in a different source during your research? Does the text agree in general with these other sources?
- Are there many spelling or grammar errors in the text? Too many errors could lead you to doubt the accuracy of the information.
Who is the author and is the author qualified to write on the topic?
- What are the author’s credentials? Is the author a journalist or an expert in the field? Is the author associated with a university or an organization? This information is found after the title, at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the document.
- Next look at the publication information. Is it a popular magazine or an academic journal? Try searching the web for information on the publisher and whether the journal is peer-reviewed. For more tips on distinguishing academic journals from popular magazines check out our comparison chart.
Why was this information published? Is it fact, opinion or propaganda?
- What type of publication is the article from? Newspapers, magazines, and academic journals have different purposes. Was the article written to educate, inform or entertain?
- Is the article objective or does the text show a bias? Is it trying to persuade the reader? Editorials, op-ed pieces, and commentary will almost always present an opinion or bias, but other articles may too. Read the abstract or the introduction as well as the conclusion of the article and keep this question in mind as you read through the text.