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Resources for Writing 123 courses. For subject specific resources, please check out the guides by subject page:

Evaluating Sources

Checklist for Evaluating Sources


Is the information presented accurate and dependable? One way to help determine the reliability of an item is to compare the facts with other documents on the same topic to check supporting facts or data.


What are the author’s credentials? Is the author an expert in the field?


Know where the information is coming from. Is the work based on personal opinion, original research, laboratory experiments, or other documentation? From what sources were the facts gathered?


Be watchful of author bias, especially when looking for objective accounts. Consider the author’s cultural, political, social, and economic background.


Check the date of publication. Are you looking for contemporary materials (sources which originated near or at the time of an event, idea or phenomenon)? Are you looking for a current account of an historic event?


References or a bibliography can give you an opportunity to check the item’s validity, and they can also provide you additional resources on your topic.


Why was the item written?

The purpose can range from dissemination of information about an important study or research project, to the insight of a specific group of people, to propaganda.

Intended Audience

Who is the target audience? Children, laypersons, scholars, professionals? This is often reflected in the author’s writing style. Is this appropriate for your purposes?

Source:  Davis, Dell M. (1996). Evaluating resources. In Empowering students; hands-on library instruction activities (Marilyn P. Whitmore, ed.). Pittsburgh: Library Instruction Publications.

Is it peer-reviewed?

For books:

Although many books go through some type of review process, most books are not clearly identified as peer-reviewed or non-peer-reviewed. To determine is the book is a credible source to cite, consider:

  • Does the book have footnotes or bibliographies that cite the sources of their information?
  • Who is the publisher of the book? Generally, books from university publishers (such as Duke University Press or University of Washington Press) can be considered credible sources.
  • Reading book reviews from experts

For journals:

Ulrich's Periodicals Directory will let you know if the journal is an academic/scholarly source and if the journal is peer-reviewed.


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