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Finding and Evaluating Scholarly Sources: Criteria for Evaluating Sources

This guide will introduce you to scholarly resources you will need for your research assignments; Scholarly and Popular Publications-journals, magazines, newspapers; and define primary and secondary sources.

Additional Tips for Evaluating Specific Source Types


  • Look at the publication date. Is the information current enough for your purposes?
  • Look at where the book was published.  If published at a University Press or U.S. Government Printing Office, that could be an indicator of scholary content


  • Is biographical information for the author provided?
  • Who is the publisher?
  • How frequently is the perodical published?
  • How many and what kinds of advertisements are present? For example, is the advertising clearly geared toward readers ina specific discipline or occupation?

Web Pages

  • What is the domain of the web page? (e.g., com, .net, .gov)
  • Who is publishing or sponsoring the page?
  • Strip back the URL to discover the source of the page.
  • Is contact information for the author/publisher provided?
  • How recently ws the page updated?
  • Be particularly wary fo bias when viewing web pages. Anyone can create a web page about any topic. You must verify the validity of the information.


Points to Remember

  • Both magazine and journal articles can be good sources for your work.
  • When selecting articles, think about how you intend to use the information.
  •    Do you want background on a topic new to you? (use a magazine)
  •    Did your teacher say to cite scholarly resources? (use journals)
  • Often a combination of the two will be msot appropriate for undergraduate research.


Currency : the timeliness of the information

  • If relevant, when was the information gathered?
  • When was it posted?
  • When was it last revised?
  • Are links functional and up-to-date?
  • Is there evidence of newly added information or links?

Relevance : the uniqueness of the content and its importance for your needs.

  • What is the depth and breadth of the information presented?
  • Is the information unique?
  • Is it available elsewhere, in print or electronic format?
  • Could you find the same or better information in another source?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is this easily determined?
  • Does the site provide the information you need? Your overall assessment is important. Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority : the source of the information

  • Who is the author/creator/sponsor?
  • Are author's credentials listed?
  • Is the author a teacher or student of the topic? Does the author have a reputation?
  • Is there contact information, such as an e-mail address? Has the author published works in traditional formats?
  • Is the author affiliated with an organization? Does this organization appear to support or sponsor the page?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Are the original sources of information listed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in independent sources or from your own knowledge?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typos?

Purpose : the presence of bias or prejudice

  • Are possible biases clearly stated?
  • Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable?
  • Are editorials clearly labeled?
  • Is the purpose of the page stated?
  • Is the purpose to: inform? teach? entertain? enlighten? sell? persuade?

Source - Meriam Library at California State University, Chico: