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Sources of Information

Source Evaluation

When we evaluate sources, we are deciding whether to use a source or not. This process doesn’t need to take a lot of time, especially once you gain experience in how to effectively evaluate sources.

What Fact Checkers and Researchers Do:

We can learn a lot about evaluating sources from what experts, like Fact Checkers and Professional Researchers, do.

Fact Checkers:

  • Google the name of the organization, source, author, CEO, etc. When landing on an unfamiliar website, don’t rely on the site to tell you if it’s reliable. Go to the web and see what is being said about the source or information.
  • Don't rely on how the website looks either. Many people can create professional-looking websites or even clone sites of reputable organizations, so be careful not to be fooled by looks!
  • Look past the order of search results. Google doesn’t sort results by reliability! Scroll down to the bottom or the next page.


  • Evaluate several times throughout the research process.
    • For example: When doing research, you may find an article and do a cursory evaluation of whether the topic or source type fits your needs. Save the article to read later and keep finding more articles. Later, you can evaluate all your sources taking a deeper look at whether the article provides good information and/or fits your research needs.
  • Use reliable research tools. Library databases can help you with evaluation because we don’t collect everything and anything like the open internet. 

There are often two over-arching questions we need to consider:

  1. Is this source appropriate for my needs?
  2. Does this source provide good information?

Is this source appropriate for my needs?

This question maybe more complicated than first glance.

  • Does it fulfill the parameters of my assignments instructions?
    • For example, is it a peer-reviewed article? Was is published within that last five years?
    • Check your assignment directions
    • Check with your professor to clarify source requirements or ask if your source fits
  • Is the research, analysis, information provided at an appropriate level for a college student or the assignment?
    • Is this resource intended for a college-level student?
    • Does it provide the type of in-depth information I need for this assignment? Some sources may provide good information, but aren’t appropriate for you to use because they don’t analyze the information well enough. In this case, this source might be good for background reading and/or may lead you to a study or other more in-depth source.
  • Does it provide me with the most up-to-date information?

Does this source provide good information?

This can be a very difficult question to answer about a source in the short amount of time you have to evaluate it. With the internet, it can be easy to make bad information look legitimate. Some of our old standbys for determining how “good” something is are also no longer applicable in this changing age of information.

  • Are there inaccuracies or inconsistencies in the information?
  • Google the source – what are other people saying about this source.
    • Don’t trust what the source tells you about itself.
  • Is the information corroborated by other sources?
  • Do they provide sources? Are those sources trustworthy?

If you are experiencing problems with our guides and databases, please contact ProfessorJanet S. Ward,, Assistant Director of the Library and Web Services Librarian.