There are five important concepts to consider when evaluating your sources--relevance, authority, accuracy, currency, and objectivity.
Relevance is one of the most important concepts for evaluation, since your sources should be directly related to your topic, not just somewhat related. Does the source specifically address your research topic?
Authority refers to the author or publisher of your source. Are they considered an expert? What are their qualifications to be writing on the topic?
Accuracy is the ability to confirm the information in your source is correct. Does the source have references? From your knowledge of the topic, does the information track with other information you've found?
Currency is about the date of publication and its importance to your topic. Do you need the most recent information available or does an older source make sense? Did an event or a change in laws or policy occur that impacts your topic?
Objectivity refers to the point of view presented in a source. What is the purpose of the source? Are they trying to sell you something, persuade you in some way, or inform you?
Understanding the different types of articles will help you know what to search for and evaluate the sources you do find.
Sources are developed for a range of audiences and serve various purposes. Some of the common sources you might find when searching library databases include scholarly, popular, and trade articles.
Scholarly source characteristics:
Examples: Behavior Modification, Journal of Family Psychology, Advances in Applied Mathematics
Popular source characteristics:
Examples: The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, The Economist
Trade publication characteristics:
Examples: American Nurse Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Law Enforcement Technology
Books are another common type of source used in research. Not all books are considered scholarly and though books that are not scholarly can be used in research, it is important to know the difference between popular and scholarly books so that you can make informed choices.