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BIO 615: Public Health Microbiology

How to Evaluate Your Search Results

Once you have retrieved search results, evaluate both their quantity and quality.

 Determine if you have enough high-quality studies to support your paper.
  • Read the abstract to determine if the study seems relevant to your project.
  • For relevant papers obtain the full text of the article to understand the study's design and results.
  • Read the study, evaluate the research methods and results.
  • Make final decisions about which articles to include in your review.
  • Poorly designed or faulty studies may be valuable in that they point to a hole in the evidence and/or highlight an area that needs to be researched further. If you include these in your paper, be sure to discuss your assessment of their quality.


Use this test to further evaluate the source:

  • Self-Awareness: Do I already have an opinion or a desired result from the information I seek?  Am I evaluating this source with an open mind?
  • Currency: When was the source published?  A good rule of thumb for Currency is that medical, scientific, and technology resources should be published within the last 5 years to prevent the information from being out-of-date; for less time-sensitive topics like history or the humanities, resources published within the last 5-10 years are often acceptable.
  • Relevance: Is the source relevant to your topic? Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?  To what extent does the source help answer your research question?
  • Authority: Who produced this resource? What are their credentials?  Are they qualified to provide information about this topic?
  • Accuracy: Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Can you determine where the author got his/her information?
  • Purpose: Does the source present a biased point of view or agenda?  Does the website or journal the source comes from have a bias to their reporting? 

Other helpful questions for initial evaluation:

  • Is the resource scholarly/peer-reviewed?
  • Are sources cited to support the author's claims?
  • Do you notice spelling or grammatical errors in a quick examination of the source?

Remember that you must work with the full text of an article in order to make your evaluation. Reading the abstract or a summary of the article in a review article or in the tertiary literature is not enough.

If you do not have immediate access to the article from the database you searched request it through Discovery or from ILLiad.