Critical Evaluation of Resources

Critical evaluation is the process of determining the quality of a resource. By this is meant not only the usefulness of the resource for your particular purpose, but also its quality in general. Is it accurate? Is it reliable? Is it authoritative? Why should anyone take any account of it?

Books, Articles, and Other Printed Materials

Who is the author?

  • Degrees? Credentials? Experience? Expertise? Status/reputation/recognition in the field?
  • Is this a paper presented at a conference? Is it an invited lecture? Is it in a series? (Who are the series editors?)

What does the publishing information tell you?

  • Date? Place? Which journal? (Is it peer-reviewed?) What publisher? (Some journals and publishers may have, or may have once had, specific agendas – religious, political, etc.)

Who is the audience?

  • Academic subject specialists? Theologians? Pastors? Laypersons? Pastoral counselors?

Evaluate the resource’s objectivity/reliability:

  • Identify the author’s bias/perspective/hermeneutic/agenda/alliances. Where is (s)he coming from? The author should tell you, but may rely on presumably known stances of particular journals or publishers.
  • Consider (potential) limitations, as well as positive aspects, of the author’s approach/methodology.

Internet Resources

Who is responsible for the site?

  • An individual? A group? Are credentials given? Responsibility should be clear.

Does the site describe its perspective, its philosophy, its agenda, its purpose?

Does the site describe the criteria it uses for selecting any links it may provide?

Does the site make clear what it includes and the source(s) of the information it gives?

How up to date is the site?

Is it a commercial site (.com), with something to sell? A non-profit’s site (.org)? An educational institution’s site (.edu)? If the last, is it a personal site not actually developed by the institution itself? (This could be fine – e.g., the remarkable Internet History Sourcebooks Project of Paul Halsall at Fordham University: