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ANT 112 - Desert Vista: Elements of evaluation

Evaluating an article for a specific use

1. What will it be used for? 

  • How will you be using it in your paper?
    • As an example?
    • As an expert interpretation?
    • As something else?


2. Criteria for evaluation

  • Is it RELEVANT enough for this use?
  • Is it RELIABLE enough for this use?


3. A reliable source is a trustworthy source

  • Statements that it makes are true (or at least justified).


4. But we can't check these things directly, so look for credible sources.

  • A credible source is in a good position to know the truth.
  • A credible source is motivated to tell the truth without distortion


5. AUTHORITY: A person who is in a good position to know the truth . . .

  • Will have studied the relevant data and sources.
  • Will have the expertise to interpret that data.
  • Will have taken steps to avoid error.


6. UNBIASED: A person who is motivated to tell the truth without distortion . . . 

  • Will lack a conflict of interest or an ulterior motive. They will not be in a position to gain something by distorting the truth.
  • Will publish in a manner that exposes them to correction from others. If they cheat, they are likely to be caught and suffer consequences.

ABC of Evaluating Reliability

If you want to think about evaluating sources in more depth, consider the following guidance. 

Once you know your intended purpose for the source, evaluate three aspects of it.

C Claim

A  Authority

B Bias




Factual accounts: Who can verify the observations?

Level 1: Direct observation of the facts (Eyewitness testimony)

  • Requires a description the witness and conditions of the observation
  • Ideally, published in a formal way


Level 2: Citing facts from an eyewitness' testimony

  • Needs a citation of the source, and an evaluation of its credibility


Level 3: Making an statement without providing support

If the statement's credibility is challenged, the person might say...

  • "This is commonly known"
  • "You could look it up, but I don't feel the need"
  • Or, "Trust me. I'm giving you the benefit of all my study, but I'm emphasizing the findings and skipping the documentation.

Unsupported statement have their place, but rarely in academic writing. Unless it is truly common knowledge, provide support: an example, an argument, or a source.