|When evaluating all types of information sources-web sites, books, periodical articles, videos, etc.-these are questions that can assist a student researcher in determining the credibility of the source. These questions can also help in deciding whether a source is relevant or appropriate for use in a college research paper or other homework assignment.
- Can you locate an author's name or a group name credited on the document?
- Can you clearly identify the credentials or authority of the author or publisher?
- Is contact information for the author or publisher provided?
- Is the author or publisher affiliated with an established publishing house, business, university periodical, or other organization?
- Does the URL of a web site provide any clues as to the sponsoring group?
- Is the information supported with a bibliography, works cited page, or footnotes?
- Can you detect any political, philosophical, religious, or other bias to the information presented?
- Are different perspectives presented on the topic or only a single viewpoint?
- Is the source trying to sell you a product, an idea or a service?
- Is there an appropriate amount and depth of information provided to cover the topic?
- Is the information written to an elementary, average, or advanced level reading audience?
- Is the information directed toward a general, specialized, or partisan audience?
- How useful is the information for your topic?
- Is this an opinion article or is it presented as an objective reporting of the facts?
- What is the point of view or perspective of the author or publisher of the source?
- Can you locate when the source was published, posted, last updated, or created?
- How current or relevant is the information?
Researchers need to be concerned about the authority, accuracy, bias, and currency of all sources they use. If in doubt or confused about a source, discuss it with your instructor or a reference librarian.