Evaluating Sources

Being able to assess the quality and credibility of the information you find at the library or online is an essential skill in conducting quality research. To evaluate a source, consider the following:

Authority

  • Who published the source? Is it a university press or a large reputable publisher? Is it from a government agency? Is the source self-published?
  • What is the purpose of the publication?
  • Who is the author? What is the author’s point of view?  
  • Is there a list of references or works cited? What is the quality of these references?

Purpose

  • Why was the source created?
  • Who is the intended audience? What is the author’s intention?
  • Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the publication organized logically? Are the main points clearly presented? Do you find the text easy to read? Is the author repetitive?

Currency

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Is the source current or out of date for your topic?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?

Relevance

  • Is this an important source for your needs? Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is the level of scholarship appropriate, or is it too elementary or advanced?