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This guide supports students developing research skills.

Source Evaluation: A Good Place to Start

Using sources found in the library's databases takes some -- but NOT ALL -- of the guesswork out of determining if a source accurate, credible, and appropriate to use in specific context. The table below walks you through three levels of source evaluation with some basic questions that can help you get started. Don't worry. Evaluating sources gets easier with practice and experience.

Don't forget to consider your own information needs. Is this information going to be useful to you? Is it relevant to what you're trying to create or learn? Remember, you're bringing your own background, identity, and worldview to the table, as everyone must, whenever you absorb new information. So also consider how those factors might be shaping your reaction to this text.





  • Who is the author or creator?
  • What are their credentials?
  • Is their expertise relevant to the topic?
  • Who funds their work? Do they have conflicts of interest?
Reputation of the author/institution can be a flawed indicator.
  • Where is this source published?
  • Does this publication venue conduct peer review?
  • What is the publication process?
  • Who edits the journal?
  • What is the impact factor? 

Even good journals sometimes make mistakes.

Impact factor is sometimes used problematically. 

  • How many times has it been cited?
  • Does the research design (methods) make sense?
  • Are references credible? Comprehensive? Properly interpreted?
  • How old is it? Is it still relevant?
  • Has it been retracted? Is there post-publication errata?
  • Where does it fit within larger scholarly conversation?

Beginner researchers might not have expertise to judge. 

Citation counts can be misleading. 

Sometimes older information is still relevant.


Video: Peer Review in 3 Minutes