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Literature Reviews: Critical reading & evaluating

This guide is an introduction to the Literature Review process - including its purpose and strategies, guidelines and resources to help you get started

Critical reading and evaluating

The ability to think critically and approach information objectively is an important academic skill.

To critically evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and validity of a piece of information, consider the following: 

  • Identify the main points or arguments  
  • Evaluate each part of the source i.e. the methodology, the discussion, the findings/conclusions 
  • Analyse the arguments the author is making 
  • Approach information objectively and evaluate what is being said 
  • Does it disagree with the criteria you have selected? 
  • Can you see any weaknesses or gaps in the argument? 
  • Is there data or other research provided to support the argument? 
  • Has it highlighted something you had not investigated? 

For more information use the Researcher Skills Toolkit - Evaluate module.

Deciding what to use

Not everything that you find will fit your criteria exactly. Once you have evaluated and analysed the information, you can determine the relevance of each source.  

Consider and document the following: 

  • Will the source be used in your research? 
  • Why has it been included or excluded? 
  • Which part of your research does it address? 
  • What are the key concepts identified in the source? 
  • Screening and critical analysis tools used in your research

There are several screening and critical appraisal tools you can use in a review to assist with your appraisal.

Check the Appraisal, Extraction and Synthesis section of the Systematic Review Library Guide for more details. 

For more information, visit Academic Learning Support resources on 'think, read and write critically'

Evaluating Information

An essential part of the research process is to objectively evaluate information gathered to determine its credibility, accuracy and validity. The quality of your research depends on the quality of the information you use.  The following frameworks are commonly used to evaluate information: 



Useful for evaluating books and journal articles. Consider the relevance of a resource based upon the following criteria: 

  • Timeliness
  • Relevance 
  • Authority
  • Accuracy
  • Purpose






Check the Resource Evaluation Library Guide for more information, including online resources and quizzes. 







Useful for evaluating resources where not a lot of detail is known about the author or organisation, e.g., news media, websites, reports, and social media. 

SIFT stands for: 

  • Stop 
  • Investigate the source 
  • Find other information 
  • Trace the claims


AACODDS Checklist

Useful tool for evaluating grey literature 
AACODDS stands for: 

  • Authority 
  • Accuracy 
  • Coverage 
  • Objectivity 
  • Date 
  • Significance 



More details about the AACODDS Checklist