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Library Research Guides

ESLW 320 - Professor Roome (Spring 2020): Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Resources


How can you tell if information you found is reliable?

Rather than assuming something is accurate and appropriate for your research needs, ask yourself the following questions.

Source and Authority

  • Can you easily identify who wrote the information and their credentials?
  • Can the information be verified through its bibliography (citations) or footnotes?
  • If online, what does the domain name (.gov, .edu, .org, .com, etc.) tell you about the authority and interests of the information?

Scope and Content

  • What is the scope or coverage of the information: Is it brief or long and in depth?
  • Is it written for a popular or general audience or is it more technical and scholarly?

Purpose and Relevance

  • Is it written to inform, explain, or persuade? 
  • Can you discover any bias to the perspective of the author? 
  • Does it relate well to information you found in other works? 

Timeliness and Accuracy

  • When was the information created or last revised? 
  • Is the information up-to-date and accurate for the given topic? 

Evaluation Exercise

  1. Take a few minutes to look at the webpage below. 

California Will Run Out of Water​

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do I think this website is reliable/trustworthy?
  • Would I use this as a source in an academic paper?
  1. What 2 or 3 things helped you make your decision? 
  2. What characteristics would a great website appropriate for academic use have? 

Scholarly versus Popular Information

Scholarly versus Popular Information

Most of your college writing and research assignments will require you to use academic or scholarly sources instead of popular sources you may be used to. 

Academic Sources:

  • Are written by an expert on the subject
  • Are written for scholars and researchers
  • Use language specific to the field
  • Include a list of references 
  • Contain verifiable facts

Popular Sources:

  • Are often written by a journalist or writer, not an expert
  • Are written for a general audience
  • Use everyday language
  • May not include references 
  • May rely more on opinions instead of facts