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Evaluating sources of information

What is 'evaluation'?

'Evaluation skills' form part of  a wider skills set of 'critical thinking'. You may also hear the terms 'critical reading', 'critical writing' 'critical analysis' or 'deeper thinking' and these all involve aspects of critically evaluating the resources you find.

Critical reading and evaluation is all about asking questions of the resources that you may want to use in your assignments, to make judgements on their accuracy, reliability, and authorship for example.  It's important to understand how to critically evaluate the things you read as this helps to decide which are the key pieces of quality, reliable evidence to use to build your argument as you write.  Sources aren’t good or bad in or of themselves and it will mostly depend on how well they each fit your needs. Evaluating your resources cannot be done in isolation and it forms a key part of the reading and writing process. 

Evaluation skills are about having knowledge of different types of information sources so that you can identify them. For example, what they look like, what features they have, what kind of content they contain, where they are found, what format they are in and then being able to ask critical questions to assess their quality and reliability. 

Why do I need to learn about evaluation skills?

Being able to evaluate the quality of the sources of information you find is an essential academic and life skill, as it can help you to improve your critical thinking and reading abilities. If you improve your evaluation skills, then the quality of the information you find and use will increase.

Reasons to learn and improve your information evaluation skills include:

  • To develop a deeper and more accurate understanding of your subject.
  • To be able to identify credible, valid and quality information.
  • To improve your chances of gaining higher grades.

How do I improve my evaluation skills?

Developing your evaluation and critical thinking skills takes time and you will find they improve as you progress through your course and need to use more resources in your academic work.  There are lots of tools available to help you evaluate the sources you find and many of them use acronyms which make them easy to remember.  If you keep these in your mind as you read, you will find your evaluation and critical analysis skills improve and deepen. 

Take a look at some of the videos or podcasts in our playlists, have a look at the further reading section and investigate tools such as the RADAR and CRAAP tests which are linked on the 'Downloadable Resources' page to the left hand side of this screen.

We also run a workshop called 'Critical thinking and reading: Evaluating your sources'. You can find it on the Develop@Derby workshops calendar here.