Regardless of where it is found, it’s important to recognize that any source of information can be inaccurate, out-of-date, incomplete, or misleading. Generally speaking, you can trust that peer-reviewed sources meet the criteria of scholarly publishing, but meeting these standards does not necessarily mean that the conclusions in every peer-reviewed article are based on solid evidence and sound argumentation. It is your responsibility as a student to evaluate the accuracy and credibility of all sources as best as you can. That is not often easy to do. Below is a simple acronym you can use to test the credibility and "appropriateness" of books and articles for your research.
How recently was the resource/information published or last updated?
How current are the sources that the author cites? Currency is more important in some fields, for example health sciences, while not as important in others, for example humanities.
Are any of the links broken?
When evaluating websites, the criteria to keep in mind are similar to those for evaluating scholarly sources, however there are a few additional questions to ask yourself:
All sources of information can contain biases that influence the focus, methods, and outcomes of research. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for any researcher to complete a study without some bias so it is important to be critically aware of this limitation in academic writing. You can use the following questions to help you evaluate the books and articles for bias, compare them with other sources, and decide how they fit into your research.
Evaluating a Source for Bias
Does the the information appear to unfairly favour a group or perspective over others?
Is the information misrepresented?
Is there other important information missing?
Whose perspectives and experiences are included? Whose are excluded?
Who will benefit from the information as it is presented?
Will the information cause harm or disadvantage another?
Unlike scholarly sources, claims made on websites are not often supported with good evidence or a bibliography of sources that tell you where the information the author is using originates. In more extreme cases there are websites presenting themselves as legitimate sources with the intent of misleading readers. These so called "fake news" sources have political motives for falsifying information. There are also cases where journals are presenting themselves as legitimate peer-reviewed sources when in fact they do not have a rigorous review process and solicit articles for profit.
It can be quite difficult to determine whether some sources are legitimate. Below are some guiding questions to help you, but if you are still unsure you can contact a librarian for assistance.