Writing: Evaluate Sources

Evaluating Sources: Questions to Ask

How do you know if a source is right for your research? Below are some questions you can ask about your sources. While you're not always expected to use sources by expert authors in publications without any bias, it's still good to be aware of these things when considering how well you trust their conclusions.

  1. Is this article relevant? What is the author investigating and how does that relate to what you're researching?
  2. Who is the author and what are their qualifications? Are their qualifications good enough for the weight you are placing on their conclusions? 
  3. Who published this? What is their purpose? To inform? To promote a particular viewpoint? To sell something?
  4. Have other people reviewed the information provided to make sure it's accurate? If it's in a newspaper, magazine, or journal, it will have been reviewed at least by an editor and possibly by other experts on the topic. 
  5. Can you tell where the author got their information from? Their own experience? Interviewing people? A research experiment? Other experts? Do they provide references or some clue about their own sources?
  6. Is the information current enough for the topic you're researching? For example, something on global warming from 1980 will be pretty out-of-date today.

Evaluating Sources: How PCC Students Do It

In this video, three Portland Community College students talk about how they consider, evaluate and use sources for their own research assignments. It should give you a good idea of what you should consider when evaluating sources for your research.

Test Your Knowledge: Scholarly, Trade/Professional, Popular

This quick quiz from the Ithaca College Library will test your knowledge and help you learn to tell the difference between different types of journals.


SIFT: Stop - Investigate the source - Find trusted coverage - Trace back to the original

When evaluating a website, look beyond the page itself. Some sites look very professional and credible but are actually giving you biased or untrue information.

This short, online video from Mike Caulfield at Washington State University gets you started on becoming an efficient fact checker:

Three more very short videos of Mike Caulfield explaining fact-checking techniques.

Evaluating Sources on the Web

On the web, it can be difficult to tell what type of source you’re looking at and whether or not it’s something that would provide quality evidence for your assignment. This video will help you look more critically at your own search results.