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Undergraduate Research Programs: Library Research Guide

Evaluation Criteria

Use the criteria below to help you evaluate a source.  As you do, remember:

  • Each criterion should be considered in the context of your topic or information need. For example, currency changes if you are working on a current event vs. a historical topic.
  • Weigh all five criteria listed below when making your decision. For example, the information may appear accurate, but if the authority is suspect you may want to find a more authoritative site for your information.
  • When in doubt about a source, talk about it with your professor or a librarian.

Criteria to consider

  • Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  • Relevance: Is this the type of information you need (ex. a research study or scholarly article)? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic?
  • Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
    Please note that that even sources that appear scholarly can be published by special interest groups.
  • Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to?  Is this a research study with methods you can follow? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another resource? Are studies mentioned but not cited (this would be something to check on)? Can you locate those studies?
  • Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

(From Evaluate Sources - University of Texas Libraries)

Evaluating Information from the Internet

Examine the site: Before diving into an article, take a step back to look at the context in which it appears. What do you know about the group or organization? You can learn some things from the About pages, but you might find out more by doing a Google search to see what other people are saying. Wikipedia articles about organizations and companies may contain helpful hints.
This research can help you understand the context and purpose of the source.

Lateral reading: Instead of reading an article straight through, or scanning up and down the same website, you might need to jump around a bit. Open multiple tabs in your browser to follow links found within the source and do supplemental searches on names, organizations or topics you find. These additional perspectives will help you to evaluate the original article, and can end up saving you time.

Things to remember:

  • The top result on Google is not always the best. Take a moment to scan the results and skim the snippets beneath the links.
  • Just because a website looks professional or credible it doesn't mean that it is.
  • Use the Ctrl-F/Command-F keyboard shortcut to search within an article for a name, group, or word.
  • Right-click on a link to open in a new tab.

(Modified from Evaluate Sources - University of Texas Libraries)

Any questions? Need help?

Call or email a subject librarian in your discipline.

For brief factual questions use the Ask a Reference Question online form.

Our Online Tutorials cover many topics, from coming up with a research question to citing your sources and using various software.

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