We evaluate information every day - mostly without even thinking about it. For example, when seeing advertising, we may ask ourselves: do I need this product? Do I need it now? Is this product real, or is it too good to be true, so must be a catch somewhere? Is this offer still valid?
Similarly, the information sources we use for learning and research can and should be evaluated this way: not all of them are good enough or relevant to what we want to achieve. One helpful guide is the RADAR framework, an abbreviation for Relevance, Authority, Date, Accuracy and Reason for writing.
Your resource should fill in a knowledge gap or support your argument. You should ask yourself the following questions:
How well does the article answer your research question?
Does the source give you the information you need or does it go off topic?
Is the source from the same discipline as your course?
Does the article address the requirements of your research prompt?
Authority is important in judging the credibility of information. Ask yourself:
Can you identify the author(s)? How many authors are there?
What are their credentials (e.g. a professor, author of multiple textbooks)?
What is the author's reputation (e.g. a successful entrepreneur)?
Is the publisher of the source credible or reputable? Have you seen other publications by this publisher?
The date an article is published is important because information can become obsolete quickly (especially in law, political science and similar disciplines). However, be mindful that many important theories and concepts in business management theory were developed decades ago. For example, a lot of research on transformational leadership comes from the 1980s-90s; these findings may still be relevant and valid. Ask yourself:
When was this resource published and will this affect the quality of the information?
How often is the resource updated? If it is a textbook, is there a more recent edition?
Providing an inaccurate fact can derail your entire paper. To avoid this, ask yourself:
Are there any statements in the article that you know to be false?
Does the article have any citations? Do they appear credible?
Are there any graphs or figures of data given to support the article?
Is the article peer-reviewed? (Be mindful that it is not only peer-reviewed publications that will be helpful in your studies. For example, trade publications can offer important insights into professional practice in your industry. Newspaper reporting may add to the strength of your arguments by providing relevant examples.)
Reason for Writing
Articles can be written for the general public or for serious researchers. You should consider the following:
Did someone write this article as a hobby? For fun?
Who is the audience for this article? (Students? Professionals?)
Is this a controversial sociopolitical issue where an author might be taking a side?
Is this article balanced, or does it favour one viewpoint over another? (You do not have to reject publications defending one particular point of view. Scholarship - scholarly knowledge - is dialogical in its nature: researchers debate each others' findings and defend their own conclusions. It is likely that some articles and books you read will strengthen your current views, while others will successfully persuade you to the opposite.)
Adapted from: Mandalios, J. (2013) RADAR: An approach for helping students evaluate Internet sources. Journal of Information Science, 39(4), 470-478.