Skip to Main Content

Tackling Information Problems (TIP): Assess relevance of the information found

Information Literacy tutorial for undergraduate students

Judge the relevance of the information found

When you search for information, you don’t need to settle for the first search result(s). Browse and/or narrow down the results, then make a selection of potentially relevant material. Look at subject terms and keywords assigned to articles, and read abstracts and conclusions. For books: read the details provided by the catalog/database, scan section/chapter headings if available. Locate potentially relevant material (this may mean a trip to the library for a print book or journal article) and determine whether or not it's useful for your paper.

Work through the following checklist when evaluating the sources you have selected to decide whether it is suitable to include in your work.

Reasons to include information:

  • contains facts/positions that you need;
  • contains illustrations or data you need;
  • contains an overview to establish the context of your paper;
  • was written by a well known authority or expert;
  • contains a point of view that illustrates something you are trying to establish;
  • exemplifies something - shows an example of xyz;
  • may have a clear explanation of something.

Reasons to exclude information:

  • it's not from a scholarly journal, something required by your lecturer;
  • it's from a scholarly journal but be too difficult for you to understand;
  • it's out of date;
  • it doesn't have the point of view you're researching;
  • it doesn't contain any new information;
  • it's too narrow (or too broad) in coverage.

 Take a look at Purdue OWL's Evaluation During Reading for more questions to ask as you evaluate a source.