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Research Basics: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Potential Sources

Having solid information is essential for a well researched paper or assignment. Below are two methods that can be used to determine if a potential source is credible and scholarly enough to use for research. If you have questions about the credibility or scholarly nature of a source you are considering using, stop by the Reference Desk and ask a librarian for help.

Evaluating Sources Using the 5 Ws

The process of evaluating source materials is an important part of conducting research. When deciding on whether or not to use a particular website (or any other source), the following questions are useful in determining a source's value for your research needs.


Who is the author/creator of the website?

What are their credentials?

Are they a recognized expert in the field they are discussing?


What is the purpose of the website? Is it to inform? Persuade?

What is the intended audience?


When was the website created?

How long has it been since it was updated?


Does the author provide sources?

Where is the information used to create the website from?     

Where is the author from? Who are they affiliated with? A university? A business or company?


Why was the site created?

Why should anyone use this website?


Found an information source but your not sure if you should use it? 

Does it pass the CRAAP test? (Yes, this is real. It's from California State University.)


Currency- timeliness of the information

                When was it published? Has it been updated?

                Is it still current? Has it become outdated?

Relevance- the importance of the information for your needs

                 Does the source contain information that will answer your question?

                 Who is the intended audience?

                 Is it at the appropriate age level?

Authority- the source of the information

               Who is the author? What are their credentials?

                Is the author qualified to write about the subject?

                Does the website's URL shed light on the author or source of information?

                     .com commercial 

                     .gov government 

                     .org nonprofit organization

                     .net network

Accuracy- the reliability and correctness of the information

              Where does the information come from?

              Is it supported by evidence?

              Can it be verified?

              Does it seem free of bias or opinion?

Purpose- the reason the information exists

              What is the purpose of the information? To teach? Persuade? Entertain? Sell?

              Do the authors make their intention clear? 

              Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?

              Does the author's point of view seem objective and impartial?