Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Depending on the general subject area or discipline of your research, primary sources may be a major focus. Primary sources take different forms depending on the discipline. In literature, a primary source is the novel, short story, poem, etc. Primary sources in history include laws, letters, oral histories, diaries, and newspaper articles on events. In science, primary sources include reports of original research. Primary sources tend to stand on their own and be firsthand observations of an event.
A secondary source is one which analyzes, critiques, reviews or explains a primary source. They are often authored by people who were not present when the event occurred or the person under study was alive. Many are written by scholars who have carefully studied the primary source and have drawn their own conclusions from it.
Critical thinking is a skill that students develop gradually as they progress in school. This skill becomes more important in higher grades, but some students find it difficult to understand the concept of critical thinking.
The concept can be difficult to grasp because it requires students to set aside assumptions and beliefs to think without bias or judgment. That is difficult to do!
Critical thinking involves suspending your beliefs to explore and question topics from a "blank page" point of view. It also involves the ability to know fact from opinion when exploring a topic.
These exercises are designed to help you develop critical thinking skills.
(from About Education, Critical Thinking Exercises)
When was the information published or posted?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
Are the links functional?
Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
Who is the intended audience?
Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?
Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source (examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net)?
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?
What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
From the Meriam Library at California State University, Chico, Is this source or information good?