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MBA Student Guide: Evaluate Resources

Evaluate Resources

Evaluate Resources

 Large amounts of information are available online. The challenge is sifting through this information to identify sources that are reliable and appropriate for your university assignments. Here are some important points to keep in mind:

1. Choosing valuable sources requires time and critical evaluation, so it's a good idea to give yourself time to find and select information for your assessments

2. Understanding how to evaluate both print and electronic information makes it easier to choose better sources that will improve your marks

3. Remember that academic assignments (e.g. essays, annotated bibliographies, presentations) will always require accurate, appropriate, and well documented sources of information - so choose your information sources carefully.

Take a look at the Resource Evaluation Tool for more tips and hints on evaluating the resources you find.

The SIFT Method

SIFT is a four-step method of evaluating information resources, and is particularly useful for evaluating online sources such as web pages and information shared on social media such as news media.

The SIFT method was created by  digital literacy educator Mike Caufield. This resource has been adapted from information from his blog, Hapgood.


  • Do you know the website or information source?
  • What is the reputation of the claim AND the source it comes from?


  • Remember the purpose of your fact-checking so that you don't get distracted.
  • If you're checking a source to repost it on socials, keep your fact-checking quick and simple.
  • If you're doing research for an assignment, you need to go deeper and spend more time on your research and fact-checking.

Investigate the source before you read/view it:

  • What are you looking at?
  • Who is the author/creator?
  • What are their credentials?

Find better coverage:

  • How do the claims in the source you've found compare to trusted sources on the topic?
  • Does your source represent accepted or contested views?
  • Is this the best source you can find on your topic? Be picky about the sources you use in your assignments - don't use the first thing you find without first evaluating the quality of the source. If it's not good enough, find something else!

Trace information to its original context:

  • If you're looking at a video on social media, what happened before and after the events in the video?
  • If you're looking at a quote, where did it come from? Has it been attributed to the correct person? (Many 'popular' quotes on social media have been misattributed!)
  • What information is missing from the source?
  • Could headlines or captions be misleading? (This is a common tactic with clickbait content!)
Let's look at an example: The website
Stop The website is not a well-known source for scientific information. It is poorly presented, the design and html looks outdated and it contains advertising and links to 'donate'.
Investigate But don't simply judge the site by appearance. Searching for Diydrogen Monoxide Research Division brings up a number of results that suggest that the source is a hoax website, so it does not have a good reputation.
Find You can use a fact-checking website such as to verify information. You can also search the library catalogue, Library Search, to find reliable academic sources.
Trace No evidence is cited for the claims made on the website; close reading of the content provides many clues that the website is a hoax, including the statement: "content veracity not implied". Think carefully about what dihydrogen monoxide actually is. How would you write it as a chemical formula? What common substance essential for life on earth has the same formula?
Verdict? Multiple sources confirm that this website is a hoax; it is unsuitable to use in a university assignment as a scientific source (however it may be useful to make a point about the importance of information literacy in science education).


The TRAAP Method

TRAAP (Timeliness, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) is a five-step method of evaluating information sources.

Each letter stands for a different set of questions you need to ask yourself when deciding whether or not to use an information source in your assignment.

T stands for Timeliness:

  • Is the information current?
  • When was it last updated (especially for online sources e.g. web pages)?

R stands for Relevance:

  • Is the content connected to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is it appropriate to use in a university level assignment?

A stands for Authority:

  • Who is the author and what are their qualifications? (Hint: do they have academic qualifications?)
  • What other work has the author published in this area?
  • It is preferable to use information sources written by academics who are experts in their field of study.

A stands for Accuracy:

  • Is the information supported with evidence/references?
  • Can it be verified in other sources?
  • Are there obvious errors?

P stands for Purpose:

  • Why was the information written? (e.g. to inform, educate, entertain, advocate or sell?)
  • Is the information objective?
  • Is there any bias or agenda in the content?
  • Hint: look at the domain of the web address if you're evaluating a web page (.com is for commercial websites; .edu is for educational websites; .org is for organisations; .gov is for government websites).
Let's look at an example: An article first published on The Conversation website, republished on the ABC News website:
Timeliness Published in 2022
Relevance For people studying insomnia, ticktock trends or the dissemination of healthcare information through social media this might be suitable - if websites are ok to use.
Authority The authors have academic credentials from Australian universities.
Accuracy No noticable errors; all links work; sources appear to be quoted correctly.
Purpose Labelled as 'Analysis' but uses information from other sources.
Verdict? May be suitable to use if you can't find a book or journal article on the same topic.


Why Evaluate?

Library Tutorials

For more help with evaluating information resources: