Locating, Evaluating and Organising Information Sources

Printable version:  Finding and Evaluating Information Sources

Printable/Editable Version: Source Notes Summary Sheet

A short video with some helpful hints on locating and evaluating information sources.

Locating Information Sources      

Finding worthwhile resources to complete an assignment is not just a matter of luck, there is a certain amount of skill involved in conducting a successful search.


The process can be broken down into five steps known as SKILL:

  • Summarise
  • Keywords
  • Identify synonyms/ alternative terms/ alternate spellings
  • Link your keywords and phrases
  • Locate your information

SKILL steps

Step 1: Summarise

Test your understanding of your assignment topic by summarising it in your own words or developing a mind map.

Step 2: Keywords

After you have summarised the topic, identify the keywords and phrases that are the most important.

For example, in the sentence –

Discuss the environmental impact of land clearing in Australia – the keywords are:

  • environmental impact
  • land clearing
  • Australia

Step 3: Identify synonyms and alternative keywords

Not all of the relevant literature will use exactly the same keyword. You will need to think about:

  • possible synonyms (words that mean the same thing)
  • alternative keywords (e.g. land clearing / vegetation clearing)
  • words with different spellings (e.g. American vs Australian spelling)

Tip: In a library, you can use the truncation feature to find all word derivatives of environmental by using an asterisk, environ*

Step 4: Link your keywords and phrases

Think about how you will use your key words and phrases to construct a search. For instance, if searching a library database you might use a combination of:

  • Boolean operators — use AND, OR, NOT to combine keywords. For instance, using AND will find result both words (environmental AND impact)


Step 5: Locate and evaluate your results


If you are not getting the right results, or are getting too many or too few results, you might need to revise your search strategy.

keyword search

(Flowcart from The University of Leeds Library, n.d)

Evaluating Information Sources

How reliable is the information I’ve found? Does it pass the TADPOLE test?


Questions to ask

Type What type of source is this? Primary/secondary/written/other
Author What are the author’s credentials?  Is the author biased?
Date Does the date affect the context of the source?
Purpose Who is the audience? Why was this written? What beliefs might affect the source?
Opinion / Fact Is this information validated?
Language Is this written in a neutral language without emotion of bias?
Evidence Is this information corroborated with other sources? Can I trust this information?

Things to consider around the reliability of websites

Points to consider Least likely to be reliable More likely to be reliable Most likely to be reliable
What sort of website is it? .com is a commercial website .net is a private business or association

.org is an organisation

.edu is an educational institution

.gov is a government website

Where did you find the information? On the web e.g. Wikipedia, Facebook A library search A library search with peer review or scholarly filter on
Is the website working Many broken links and no recent updates Working links and last update is recent
Layout Amateurish User-friendly User-friendly and professional
What country is it?

The may impact on how relevant the information is for your assignment

Country codes can be found here

Country will not be relevant for my topic Country will be relevant for my topic

Organising Information Sources

Having found your information, verified your information, the next step is to organise your information.  The system below is useful for keeping track of what you are going to use when you begin writing.  A blank, printable version is available here: Source Notes Summary Sheet


Source Notes Summary Sheet

Source Title Great Ideas for Organising Information I’ve Found for My Assignment
Source Type Journal Article
Source Date 2018


Content Notes Pages
“The quality of your information depends largely upon the reliability of your sources.” Useful quote 11
There are many tried and tested ways to search for information. Try and find out more about this. 12



The University of Leeds Library. (n.d.). Keyword search: improving your results. Retrieved from https://library.leeds.ac.uk/downloads/download/54/keyword_search_improving_your_results

The University of Queensland Library. (n.d). Research Tools and Techniques Retrieved from https://web.library.uq.edu.au/research-tools-techniques/search-techniques

Russell, D. (2018). EDS4408 Week 3 Topic 4: Selecting and using primary and secondary sources. [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from https://usqstudydesk.usq.edu.au/m2/course/view.php?id=13831