Evaluation Criteria For Electronic Resources
     Susan J. Beck

Table of Contents

Additional Criteria Under Development

Researching a Product

Content Evaluation


  • Does the publisher, sponsoring agency, vendor or producer have a good business reputation and is considered reliable?
  • Is the authority of the product clearly stated in the user documentation?
  • What is the authority of the indexers?


  • Who is the primary audience for the product? (Undergraduates, Graduate Students, Faculty, Adults, Children, Layperson)


Subject Coverage

  • What is the stated subject coverage for the resource?
  • How many subjects are covered by the resource?
  • Is this resource the authoritative file in its discipline?
  • Are the titles covered appropriate for the subject area?
  • Are the titles considered well respected and of high utility in the stated area of coverage?

Time Coverage

  • What is the time period covered in this resource?
  • How many years of data are in the database?

Geographical Coverage

  • Is it international in scope?
  • Does it just cover the United States?
  • Are there any additional geographic restrictions?


  • How current is the information in this resource?
  • What is the lag time between when a periodical is published as opposed to when it appears in the index?


  • How frequently is it updated? (daily, weekly, monthly quarterly?)


  • Are there multiple languages represented in the publications in the resource?
  • If multiple languages publications are present, are citations and abstracts available in English?


  • What types of materials are covered? journal articles? books, documents, pamphlets? conference proceedings?
  • How many publications are covered?

Record Format

  • Are abstracts available for all records?
  • Are abstracts available for selected records?
  • What percentage of the database has abstracts?
  • Are articles available in full text?
  • What percentage of the titles are available in full text?
  • If journals are not indexed cover to cover, are exclusions documented?
  • Are images (including photographs, graphs and illustrations) available in all articles?
  • What percentage of the resource's titles include full image?
  • If images are not all available online, are they available to be faxed?

Relation to Similar Works

  • How does it compare with similar works on the same topic?
  • Is it similar in scope to other works in your collection?
  • Is there significant content overlap between this electronic resource and other currently locally available electronic resources?
  • What makes this work unique or distinguishes it from other sources?

Product Comparisons

  • If the product is available from multiple vendors, how does one version differ from the others?
  • What are the differences in searching interfaces?
  • What are the differences in display options?
  • What are the differences in and output options?


  • Is the resource available on the web?
  • Is the resource available to mount locally?
  • Does it require maintenance or serial updating?

Depth of Indexing


  • How reliable is the information presented?
  • How dirty is the database in terms of the presence of misspelled words?
  • What is the error rate?
  • Is the indexing quality accurate?
  • Are the bibliographic citations accurate?
  • What quality control procedures does the producer use?

General Indexing Features

  • What are the basic components of the record?
  • What fields of the record are searchable?
  • Can the full text be searched? Is it optional?
  • Can indexing be controlled locally?

Author Indexing

  • Are all authors associated with an indexed item included?
  • Are author names spelled in the index as they are in the work?
  • Are authors listed only by the initials of the author and not the full name as it appears on the publication?

Subject Indexing

  • Are all facets of the content of each article indexed?
  • How many index terms are assigned to each record?
  • How thorough is the indexing?
  • Do indexes provide unique access points?
  • To what extent is the database's vocabulary controlled?
  • Are subject terms used that are appropriate to the discipline?
  • Is there an online thesaurus available to help the user formulate effective searches?
  • Does the thesaurus include scope notes?
  • Can you link directly from the thesaurus to a set of articles?

Journal Indexing

  • Are journals indexed from cover to cover?
  • Are journals indexed selectively?
  • Are letters to the editors and editorials indexed?
  • Is other editorial content included in the full text online? (instructions to the author, calendars, news)
  • If journals are not indexed cover to cover, are exclusions documented?

Special Features

  • What unique features distinguish this source from another?
  • What is the image quality of graphs, illustrations, and pictures?
  • Is a list of sources indexed available with the product?
  • Can local holdings be linked to the database?
  • Does the producer offer document delivery services?



  • Is searching easy for average users?
  • Are there both novice and expert search interfaces available?
  • Does the interface have introductory screens?
  • Does the interface have online tutorials?
  • Does the interface have prompts and menus?
  • Does the interface have function specific help?
  • Is it easy to move form one function to another
  • Is it easy for a user to access full-text from the citation?
  • Are error messages easy to understand?
  • Is there an easy and obvious way to logoff or exit out of the system?


  • Is Boolean searching available?
  • Is keyword searching available?
  • Is full text searching available?
  • Is index browsing available?
  • Is weighted searching available?
  • How are weights assigned?

Inverted Indexes

  • What search indexes are available?

Vocabulary Linking

  • Is there hyper linked searching capabilities?
  • Can thesaurus terms be used without rekeying?


  • Is truncation available?
  • Is truncation automatic?
  • What are the truncation symbol(s)?
  • Is word stemming available?

Positional Searching

  • Is proximity searching available?
  • Is there a method to search for littorals and stop words as parts of phrases?
  • Can selected items be marked for later use?
  • Can search results be saved as sets for reuse?
  • Can a search strategy be saved and re-used in another database?

Search Limitations

  • What search limits are available?
  • Can you limit by full text?
  • Can you limit by abstracts only
  • Can you limit by language?
  • Can you limit by dates?
  • Can you limit to publication type?
  • Can you limit to a single field?
  • What additional special limits are available?
  • Are there subject or publication format specific limits available? (Such as limit to human, animal, age, industry information, SIC Codes, newspaper headlines)

Search Display Options

  • Are the search screens attractive?
  • Are search screens easy to read?
  • Are the search screens immediately understandable?
  • Can users follow on screen instructions to begin searching immediately?
  • Are the screens tailored to the needs of the user?

Results Display Options

  • What is the default display?
  • Can the user select and define different display options?
  • Is local control of display options possible?
  • Is it easy for a user to understand the different fields in the citation?
  • Does the user need special software to display either full text or images? (Adobe Acrobat)
  • Does the citation display with the full text?
  • How easy is it to move through the display for both citations and full text options?
  • How are images displayed with text?
  • Can the search results be sorted for display?
  • What sort functions are available for display?

Output Options

  • Is it easy to download?
  • Is it easy to email?
  • Is it easy to print?
  • Is the search history attached to the results?
  • Can the search history be detached from the results?
  • Can search results be sorted?
  • Are citations included in the same record with the full text of the article?
  • Are user defined record formats available?
  • What formats are available for downloading or emailing? (ASCII Text, comma separated)
  • Are those formats commonly used for importing into productivity software?
  • Are there limits to the number of records which can be delivered in one segment? (e.g. First 50 in set).
  • If you limit output to an initial segment of the records, is it difficult to select more records for output?




Customer Relations and Support

Demonstration and Trials

Publicity and Promotions

Continuous Assessment

Last updated: April 2010
URL: http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/staff/collection_dev/reports/eval_criteria_e-resources.shtml
Website Feedback  |  Privacy Policy
© Copyright 1997-, Rutgers University Libraries