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Evaluating Sources

Should you use that source?

Evaluating sources in an academic context

Reliability & Relevance: these are the two main areas to investigate when you evaluate a source.

1. Reliability: is this source reliable and trustworthy?

Ask things like:

  • who wrote it (for example, what are their credentials in this area?)
  • does the communicated information benefit from clearly identifies sources/facts, and, if yes, are they provided?
  • is the information outdated?
  • does the type of source match with the information you're seeking from it (for example, an encyclopedia article overviews a topic rather than focusing on specific study details)
  • is bias, systemic racism, and/or misused information a concern?

2. Relevance: is the source is reliable, turn your attention to whether the source is relevant to your topic and your plan for exploring the topic in your assignment.

Ask things like:

  • does the source help you understand the topic?
  • can you use specific information from the source to write your assignment?
  • does the information allow you to make meaningful connections or offer clear explanations in your assignment?

3. Use in your assignment or research: If the source is both reliable and relevant then it passed! Now think about the best way to incorporate the source (for example, direct quotation versus paraphrasing) and don't forget to cite it!

Evaluating sources can be complex and confusing. Don't hesitate to ask for your help at

Evaluating sources in an academic context infographic

Types of Articles

Your essay instructions will often include a requirement to use scholarly sources.  This video will help you recognize scholarly articles compared to non-scholarly articles.

Identifying Source Type

If you quote or paraphrase from a source you have to include the citation information in your essay.  This video will help you understand what type of source you are looking at so you can follow the correct examples in MLA or APA.

Other ways of evaluating information: the S.T.A.R. Evaluation

Source * Timeliness * Accuracy * Relevance

Learn more about evaluating information sources using the S.T.A.R. criteria.  This link includes a checklist and videos.

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