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SMU Libraries

Legal Internship Research Toolkit: Evaluation

Introduction

Before using a resource in your research, it is first important to evaluate it for its credibility. This involves looking at a few factors:

  • Currency - When was the content published? If it was published a long time ago, it may be outdated. Do bear in mind the topic you are researching. If you are doing research on the state of law at a given state of time, resources published long ago may in fact be relevant. However, if you're doing research on the current state of law and that area is fast-changing, you should be cautious in citing older resources.
  • Relevance - Does the information relate closely to your research topic?
  • Authority - Who is the author of the information? Is it someone reliable or from a credible institution? If the information was published by a government or educational institution (eg. the website ends with .gov or .edu), the information is more likely to be credible compared to if the information was published by a commercial organization (eg. website ends with .com)
  • Accuracy - Is the information verified by other sources or supported by evidence? If not, it could be unreliable.
  • Purpose - What was the purpose of the information? If it was for commercial purposes (eg. a chocolate company publishing research on the benefits of chocolate to promote its sales), it may not be so reliable. Do also take note of personal/organizational bias.However, opinion pieces can still be useful so long as you acknowledge that they are opinion pieces.

All of the above factors should be looked at holistically and with common sense. 

Wikipedia and Legal Research

The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy