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Evaluate Sources

Never before has it been easier to locate information! The volumes of information available through the University Library and on the internet is staggering – and overwhelming. Not all sources are appropriate for your paper/project. Before you throw up your hands and say “I’ll just Google it!”, consider the tips in this guide to help you evaluate sources and determine if they are appropriate.

Giving a Critical Eye to Your Sources

Consider the guidelines below when you assess your sources. Ask yourself the questions posed to evaluate the resources for currency, relevancyaccuracy, authority, and purpose.

CURRENCY: The timeliness of the information.

Ask Yourself:

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

RELEVANCE: The importance of the information for your needs.

Ask Yourself:

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e., not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

ACCURACY: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.

Ask Yourself:

  • From where does the information originate?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there any spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?

AUTHORITY: The source of the information.

Ask Yourself:

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

PURPOSE: The reason the information exists.

Ask Yourself:

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
Learn how to use the CRAAP method to determine if a source is a good choice to use in your research.