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ENGL110 class page

Evaluating Sources

When you're evaluating information that you find on the open web or through library resources, you can use these questions to help you decide how relevant, credible, and useful a source will be for your project:


  • Try to identify the name of an author or authors, then do an online search to learn more about them. What gives them authority to produce information on the topic? What limitations do they have? Consider their credentials and experience.
  • By producing this source, does the author identify as a member of a particular community? How might this impact the author's perspective on the topic? (For example, a professor publishing in a psychology research journal would be writing from a scholarly perspective on psychological concepts). 
  • What group, institution, or publication is responsible for producing or hosting this source? Do an online search to find out more about this entity. Why do you think they produced this source?

Audience and Community

  • Consider the visual design of the source as well as the type of language it uses. Who do you think is the intended audience? What does this mean for how you intend to use the source?
  • How does the source acknowledge the ideas of others? 
  • Who can give feedback about this source? How? 

Creation Process

  • What process did the author(s) have to go through to produce this piece? Make a list of steps they might have had to take, from having an initial idea through choosing how to present it to an audience.
  • Besides the author(s), who else do you think was involved in the creation process? How did they contribute? 
  • How long do you think it took for this source to reach its current form? What does that mean for your topic?
  • When was the source published or last updated? What does this mean for your topic?

Types of Sources

When you are beginning an evaluation of your sources, it can be helpful to determine whether they are intended for a scholarly or general/popular audience. Information you find in both types of sources might be useful for your project. These guidelines can help you decide which type of source you have:

  Popular Sources Scholarly Sources
Purpose Report on current events or entertain Discuss results of research in detail
Author Journalists Professors or scholars
Audience General public Professional scholars and researchers within a specific field of study and college students
Language Accessible to a general audience Specialized and technical
Citations Typically do not include any citations to outside sources Always include an extensive list of cited sources in a bibliography or footnotes