Skip to Main Content

Evaluate Sources

Learn how to decide whether a source is credible, and worthy of being used in your assignment.

How to Evaluate a Source

1. What type of source is this, and is it relevant to your assignment?

What is your source? Sometimes, particularly with information found online, it's not immediately obvious whether you are looking at an ebook, a government report, a plain old website, etc. Investigate to find out for sure (ask a librarian if you need help!). 

Then check your assignment instructions. It doesn't matter how wonderful your website is, if your instructor only wants peer-reviewed academic journal articles. 

Google it gif

2. Google the website, author, and/or publisher

Before you even read a source, open another browser tab and Google the website, author, publisher, or organization. Skim through the first page or two of results. If there's a Wikipedia article about the person or organization, skim through that.

This is a fast way to find out authority: whether other people respect the source. If the person or organization is controversial, you will likely discover this through a simple Google search. 

Depending on your project, you might still wish to use a controversial or biased source, but you definitely want to know your source is biased or controversial when you use it!

Not sure it's current gif

3. Is it current?

For most subjects, you want most of your sources to have been published within the past 5 to 10 years. 

Find a publication date or, for websites, the date the page was last updated. On websites, this information is commonly located at either the top or bottom of the main body of text. 

Information that is more than a few years old may no longer be considered correct.


dog reading gif

4. Read the Source

If you have considered the first 3 steps and still think you might want to use the source, then it's time to read the source (no point wasting time reading things that don't fit your assignment in the first place, aren't widely respected, or are out of date!). 

While you read, consider:

  • Are there lots of typos or grammar mistakes, or did the author take care to write clearly and correctly?
  • Are a lot of the links dead, or do they all work? Do the links go to useful, relevant information?
  • Are there a lot of advertisements, or relatively few?
  • Is the information relevant to your research topic?
  • Is the information accurate? Do the facts in this source agree with other sources you have found?

for research purposes Black Panther gif

5. What is the source's purpose?

After you've read the source, think about its intended purpose: why the source was created.

  • Is the source trying to give an unbiased account, or is it trying to persuade you towards a particular point of view?
  • Is the source trying to get you to buy something, or donate towards a cause?
  • What kinds of sources does your source cite? Do you consider those sources reliable?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is this written for college students, or for a more general audience? 

got to make a decision gif

6. Put it all together and make a decision

There are no universal, objective, right or wrong answers when evaluating sources. Every source has strengths and weaknesses.

It is your responsibility to make an informed decision: is this source right for your research project?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Except where otherwise noted, the content in these guides by Mohawk Valley Community College Libraries is licensed under CC BY NC SA 4.0. This openly licensed content allows others to cite, share, or modify this content non-commercially, with credit to MVCC Libraries.

When reusing or adapting this content, include this statement in the new document: This content was originally created by Mohawk Valley Community College Libraries and shared with a CC BY NC SA 4.0 license.

Mohawk Valley Community College Libraries - 1101 Sherman Drive, Utica, NY, 13501- P. 315.792.5561