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Evaluate your search

Searching takes time. You may need to continually reflect on, and adapt your search to find what you need.


  1. Are results finding relevant articles? Do they answer your research question?
  2. How many relevant results are you finding?
  3. Why are irrelevant results appearing?
  4. Is the database you are using appropriate? Do you need to try another one?
  5. Have you missed any key terms in your search?
  6. Can you refine your results further? Try adding another concept or applying a search limit.

Evaluate your chosen resources

Accuracy Are arguments supported with independent evidence? What types?
Audience Is it intended for a general audience or someone familiar with the research in the subject?
Authors What are their qualifications (e.g. advanced degree with years researching)?
Content Is the content within your research scope? Is it what you are looking for?
Currency Check the publication date. Are recent developments considered?
Language          Is it of a higher level language and does it use discipline-specific terminology?
Peer review Is it peer reviewed? Most books and articles are peer reviewed, before being accepted, as part of the publishing process. However, be careful because there are some publishers who simply publish what they are given. For example, they will take a thesis and re-badge it as a book without any editorial intervention.
Publisher Is the publisher reputable (see 'peer review')?
References Are in-text citations and references given? Can you easily follow them up?

At university, you are expected to use quality sources including scholarly sources. For some assignments, you may be required to use only articles from peer reviewed journals.

Peer review is one accepted measure of quality. So, if you are unsure about the quality of an article, checking whether the journal it was published in is peer reviewed is a good place to start. If the journal is peer reviewed, you can be confident that the article is scholarly. 

More help:

Research articles Contain original (empirical) research; therefore, they are considered primary sources of information.
Review articles Contain a critical evaluation or appraisal of studies within a particular field; therefore, they are considered secondary sources of information. Review articles can include literature reviews, scoping reviews or systematic reviews.

Tips to identify a research article:

  • Look for terms such as empirical research or original research in the article
  • What is the research methodology used? – e.g. randomised controlled trial, case-controlled study, cohort study, quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods etc.

Pyramid <image, public domain>Some study designs are considered to be more authoritative sources evidence than others due to methodologies that minimise bias. A number of "Evidence Hierarchies" have been created to help readers with this distinction:

You be the judge

Critical thinking

Critically thinking about the information you find is key to understanding content and making informed judgments. See: