Here are some questions you should ask yourself when you are sifting through your search results, looking for gems of information.
Authority - Who specifically wrote the source? How is this person an authority on the issue? How do you know? Can you verify the authority with other sources, not just what the person says about themselves?
For scholarly information, it will say who wrote it, and usually their academic rank (assistant professor, researcher, etc.) and where they were employed at the time the article was written. If the article is from a peer-reviewed journal, then other researchers have critiqued the article and found it to be worthy of publication.
For non-scholarly information, it’s more important who is responsible for it rather than the individual author. What is the reputation of the magazine or newspaper that published the information?
Evidence - What is the evidence? Is it complete, or does it have holes in it? Is it balanced, or overly biased or slanted?
Some sources will be relevant and useful, but do not give the reader a complete picture of the issue and ramifications, such as an editorial that is slanted to a particular perspective. But just because a source is not balanced does not mean it would not be useful. It just means you need to find sources with other viewpoints as well.
The more comprehensive sources will be especially useful at the beginning of your research, when you are still absorbing as much as possible about your issue.
Type of Article - How would you classify this source?
Is it a scholarly, researched-based? Is it a news story written by a journalist? An editorial? A report by an organization? Is it background information (Wikipedia-like)? Satire?