Help Guides » Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Not all sources are created equal. Which sources you choose will depend on your assignment and your audience.

Questions to ask yourself

  • What does my instructor require?
  • Whom would my audience believe or find trustworthy?
  • What types of sources are available on my topic?
  • What types of sources does my course subject area use?

Q: What does my assignment require (2 min)?

Q: Who is an Authority to My Audience?

The audience for your assignment could be scholars, professionals, peers, or the public. Consider who your target audience would trust. Not sure who the audience is? Ask your professor.

Authority is constructed and contextual (1 min)

Q: What Types of Sources Are Available?

After an event occurs, different types of sources on a topic become available at different times. This is called the Information timeline. If you are required to use scholarly sources for your assignment, be sure your topic is at least 6 months old. 

Information Timeline

Within Minutes

Social Media “Breaks” the story. Information may be incomplete, false, or biased.
Examples: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, blogs

Within Days

News Sources (TV, news websites, radio, daily newspapers)
As time passes, information gets added, updated and verified. Opinions emerge.
Examples: CNN.com, Fox News, BBC Radio, New York Times Newspaper

Within 1 month

Monthly Magazines
Additional time allows for better reporting. May include opinions.
Examples: Wired, Scientific American, National Geographic,

After 6 months

Scholarly Journals
Written by experts. Well-researched and objective.
Examples: Journal of American Culture, JAMA,

After 1 Year

Books
Benefit most from hindsight. Give in-depth coverage of a topic.
Examples: Nonfiction books, biographies, textbooks, encyclopedias

Tip: If you are researching a recent event, think about the broader category of the event to find scholarly information about similar events.

For example: Athletes kneeing during the national anthem = athletes AND “political protest”

Q: Is this source credible?

Using credible sources makes you more credible to your audience. This video explains a few factors to consider for most sources.

Credible Source criteria (2 min)

TIP: Never trust a search tool Filter in Primo or a database

Review the information provided about the author and the creation process.

Click on Journal title or author's name in databases for more information

Click on the author’s name and the journal title to find more information about both.

For example, Here is the information provided for this author. The author is a professor.

Author's address at Department of Optometry

We know this article is peer-reviewed because the database provides dates for review and revision of the article:

Received 23 April 2018, Revised 2 December 2018, Accepted 12 December 2018, Available online 21 January 2019.”
 

Q: How Do I evaluate Web sources? (2 min)

This video explains upstreaming, reading laterally, and bias checking, 3 techniques for verifying sources. 

Web site evaluation techniques

Q: Where do I find my sources?

See our other guides on finding specific source types:
Finding Data & Statistics
Finding Books & Ebooks
Finding Articles