Keep It or Toss It? Evaluating Sources

Does the source cover my topic? (Relevancy)
Right on target
In-Class Example  
 Your evaluation    
How deeply does it cover my topic? (Comprehensiveness)
Good Overview
 Your evaluation    
Is the material current? (Currency)
Doesn't Matter
 Your evaluation    
What is the perspective of the author? (Bias)
Clearly wants to sway the reader's opinion
Author appears to advocate a certain position, but remains basically objective
Author appears to be neutral, trying hard to present all the facts fairly
 Your evaluation    

What "weight" does the source possess? (Authority)

No author listed - Authority unknown
Intended for the general reader; the author is not a specialist
Intended for the intelligent general reader; author may be a specialist
Intended for a scholarly audience; the author is an expert
Intended for a scholarly audience; source has been reviewed by the author's peers. (Peer- reviewed)
 Your evaluation      
How would you use this source?
Throw it out
Useful for background information & clue gathering, but would not include in my bibliography
Useful, but only as a secondary or overview source. May include in my bibliography
Would consider it an important supporting source for one of my points
An essential source that supports one of my key points
Your evaluation  
  You may not know who the important authors are in the field, but there are some clues to look for. Is the person employed by a prestigious institution? Are the person's academic credentials relevant to what he/she is writing about? Is the book published by a prestigious publishing house? Is the journal peer-reviewed? If you can answer "yes" to any of the above questions, chances are great that the content is authoritative. If you can't answer "yes" to any of the above questions, the source may still be good, just not topnotch. Check out the other evaluation criteria below.
  Everyone writes from a certain perspective and is, therefore, biased. However, bias can be charted on a continuum. Some sources are so biased that facts are distorted or ignored. Look for words or phrases that signal bias, such as, inflammatory or unverifiable statements. You are looking for authors who have seriously wrestled with the issues and who at least respect opposing viewpoints.
  While you may not find sources that cover your topic exactly, you should only use sources that are relevant to your work. Don't pad your bibliography with irrelevant sources. Does the source provide a new or different perspective? Does it support your position? Is it a viable opposing view to which you should respond? Is the information current?
  Always choose the sources that take the time to carefully lay out the issues. The number of words is not the issue here; a two-page article may be more comprehensive than a 10-page paper. Look for how well the author has mastered the subject.