This Guide to Evaluating Sources was created by Patrick Williams, Humanities Librarian at SU and is used with permission.
Just because your resources came from the library’s collections and databases doesn’t mean you shouldn’t approach every source critically. This chart contains a variety of questions that you should ask yourself when evaluating books, periodicals, and web sites for use in your writing.
- Authority: Who wrote this? Are they qualified to make these claims?
You should check the author of your information source. Anonymous works should be considered suspect until you can verify the author's claims in other works. If an author is listed, you should investigate the author's credentials within the subject area of the work.
- Currency: When was this published? How does that relate to your topic?
In most cases, the date of publication for your source is important. Unless your research specifically focuses on a specific time period, you should check to make sure that there is not more up-to-date or accurate information available.
- Validity/Accuracy: Are the claims made in the source supported by others? Are they cited?
Never use factual information that is not supported with a citation, unless you can find another source to verify it or that information is widely recognized as common knowledge.
- Audience: For whom was this work intended?
You should always be aware of the intended audience of your source. This will help you understand why the information is presented a certain way.
- Point of View: What is the perspective of the author or publication?
It is important to consider the perspectives and biases that are communicated in a source. An awareness of point of view can help to guide your research toward other points of view that you may have missed.