Evaluating Sources



What is the breadth of the source? Is it a general work or focused on one aspect of the topic?


When was the source published or produced?

Type of Source:

Is the source scholarly or popular (especially important for articles)? Is it intended for a specific professional audience (trade)?

Primary vs. Secondary sources:

  • Primary sources present original research for the first time.
  • Secondary sources provide a compilation or an evaluation of previously published information.


Who published the source: a university press, a professional association, a trade association, a commercial publisher, a person, other?


Content Analysis


Who is the author and what are his/her credentials? What else has she/he written?


Who is the intended audience of the source?


What viewpoint does the author hold? Does she/he cover both sides of the issue?

Writing Style:

Is the source well written? Is it academic? If it is filled with jargon, is the jargon properly used?


Does the source provide footnotes or a bibliography of references?

Checklist for Evaluating Research*

Is there a clear statement of the research problem?
Are any sub-problems stated?
Is a hypothesis stated?
Is the report organized under appropriate headings?
Are the data analyzed and interpreted?
Is any indication given whether the hypothesis (es) is either supported or rejected?
Does the article refer to any related literature or supporting studies?
Are the conclusions clearly stated?
Are any further studies or needed research suggested?
Did you understand the research and comprehend what the researcher was attempting to do?

* Leedy, Paul D., Practical Research: Planning and Design, 5th ed., (New York: Macmillan, 1993), 22.


Evaluating Internet Sources

Look at the URL*:

  • What is the domain*? .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, .mil, other.
  • Is the domain appropriate for the content?
    *  See Web Fundamentals if you are unfamiliar with this terminology.
Who published the page/site?
  • Is it published by an institution or might it be a personal page?
The author:
  • Who wrote the page? Is author's name provided?
  • Are there any credentials that indicate that the person is a qualified authority on this subject? How can you find more information about this person?
  • Is a way to contact the author provided on the page?
The page:
  • Does the page provide factual information or data, or does it provide second-hand information? Is the page well documented?
  • When was the page created or last updated? Are the links on the page still current?
  • Who sponsors the page?
  • What was the purpose in publishing this page/site? Why was it created?
  • Is there a bias? Does the page provide a balanced approach to the topic, presenting other viewpoints? Is anything obviously omitted?
  • Who links to it? How did you find it?

A helpful "Web Page Evaluation Worksheet" is available from the Library at the University of California, Berkeley (Adobe Acrobat format). This library has an extensive tutorial devoted to evaluating Web pages.


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