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How Do I… Evaluate a Source?


  • Consider the purpose of your source
    • What does your assignment require? Does your instructor want you to use only peer-reviewed journal articles? Can you use any type of source as long as it’s credible?
    • How will your information be used? As background information to understand your topic? As the main piece of evidence to support your argument? As a way to engage your argument and refute other ideas?
  • Research the author
    • All sources should have an author that is credible. Are they printing factual information? Do they publish in reputable sources? (Example: a respected journalist)
    • If you find a scholarly source, your author should have authority to speak on the topic. Google them, look at other things they’ve written, check for affiliations and degrees in relevant fields. (Example: a researcher or academic that has studied the subject they’re writing about)
    • If there is no author listed, find out who is allowing this information to go out. Is there an editorial board? A board of directors?
  • Look at the other information being published
    • Where are they getting the facts that they’re stating? If they mention a source, track down that source and fact check.
    • Check for bias. You want information that is fair, balanced, and objective.
  • Find out who is publishing the information
    • Look at what else they’ve published.
    • If your source is published by a government agency or organization, find out who funds them.
  • Look at the date
    • If you’re researching a current topic, you’ll want current resources. If you’re doing historical research, older dates may be okay.
    • Search for sources that cite your source to understand the big picture. Has this claim been refuted since it’s been published?
  • Look at the audience
    • The audience should be appropriate for your purpose. If your source is meant to be read by grade school students, it’s not going to cover the depth you need for your college paper.
    • Is the purpose of your source to inform or persuade?











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