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Nursing : Evaluating Evidence

A research guide for nursing students

Evaluating Information

Evaluating information involves asking the right questions about the information you are finding. 

The Basics:

The first set of questions are about your information needs.

  • Is the information right for you? Is it appropriate for your needs?
  • Does it fit the goal of your assignment? 
  • Could you incorporate these ideas into your work?

 

The second set of questions are about the content of the information. Keep in mind that most nursing research should be current and should always be based on quality research. 

Scope:  What is the breadth of the article, book, website or other material? Is it a general work that provides an overview of the topic, or is it specifically focused on only one aspect of your topic? Does the breadth of the work match your own expectations? Does the resource cover the time period that you are interested in?

Audience:  Who is the intended audience for this source? Is the material too technical or too clinical? Is it too elementary or basic? You are more likely to retrieve articles written for the appropriate audience if you start off in the right database or website. For instance, to find resources listing the latest statistics on heart disease you may want to avoid the Medline database which will bring up articles designed for praciticing clinicians rather than consise statistical tables from the CDC website.

Timeliness:  When was the source published? If it is a website, when was it last updated? Avoid using undated websites. Library catalogs and periodical databases always indicate the publication date in the bibliograhic citation.

Authority:  Who is the author? What are his or her academic credentials? What else has this author written? Sometimes information about the author is listed somewhere in the article. Other times, you may need to consult another resource to get background information on the author. Sometimes it helps to search the author's name in a general web search engine like Google.

Documentation:   A bibliography (aka references or works cited), along with footnotes, indicate that the author has consulted other sources and serves to authenticate the information that he or she is presenting. In websites, expect links or footnotes that document sources and refer to additional resources and other viewpoints.

Objectivity:  What point of view does the author represent? Is the article an editorial that is trying to argue a position? Is the website sponsored by a company or organization that advocates a certain philosophy? Is the article published in a magazine that has a particular editorial position?