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Evaluating Sources: Articles

Information Literacy GEO this assignment addresses:

Evaluates and selects information. This assignment will help students assess the value of an information source by rating it using a points system. Learning a process for selection and evaluation will assist students in focusing on only the most pertinent information sources for their academic projects.

Objectives of assignment:

  • Students learn to evaluate sources based on relevant criteria
  • Students learn to evaluate the relative merits of sources
  • Students analyze the contents and possible limitations of sources
  • Students learn to select the most relevant and useful sources


Have students bring three different journal or magazine articles related to their research topic. Remind students to have the full citation information for each article. This exercise can be completed without the use of computers.

The instructor should hand out a card for each resource to be evaluated, 3 cards per student in this case. Read the questions aloud as the students evaluate their first article. This will give students the opportunity to ask questions about definitions of certain terms. The instructor will probably have to describe the differences between scholarly and popular resources.

Have the students add up their ERA to determine the usefulness of the source. They should move on to evaluating their next two resources on their own. Print Worksheet

Assignment: Earned Research Average (ERA) Inspired by pitching statistics, this exercise will help you evaluate and select information.

Currency—How old is the Source?
If the article is 2003 or newer
If the article is older than 2003
If the article is 1999 or older

add 3 points
subtract 1 point
subtract 2 points

Coverage—How broadly is the Topic discussed?
If the article provides a good amount of information
If the article is too narrow (not enough info)
If the article is too broad (too much info)

add 2 points
subtract 2 points
subtract 1 point

Authority—Who is the Author?
If the author has written on the topic before
If the author is a specialist in the field
If the author works for a college or university

add 2 points
add 2 points
add 1 point

Relevance—How useful is the Information?
If the content is seems very useful
If the content seems somewhat useful
If content is not useful

add 2 points
add 1 point
subtract 1 point

References—How many references are cited?
If there are 5 or more citations
If there are 1-5 citations
If there are no citations

add 2 points
add 1 point
subtract 2 points

Scholarship—How scholarly is the Material?
If article is from a refereed scholarly journal
If article is from a scholarly journal
If article is from a popular magazine

add 2 points
add 1 point
zero points

Add up the points for this source:

TOTAL ______

Rating the source:
9 Points and above = Excellent source
5-8 Points = Acceptable Source
4 or fewer Points = Potentially useful as background material, but keep looking

Ranking the source:
Of the three sources you have evaluated, circle the “ranking” this source would receive.

#1 #2 #3

Please justify your ranking with a few statements about your judgment of the sources:

Important summation/review points:

A class discussion should conclude the exercise; ask students if anyone has found a source that they will not be using after all. Have students make suggestions about where they might find more sources that are valuable.