When it comes to quality, not all sources are created equal. Some sources are more reliable than others, while some are outright unfit for use in a college-level assignment. This means diligence is required when evaluating resources, to ensure the use of only high-quality, reliable sources created by experts with established authority related to your topic.
The criteria below provide a popular way to evaluate a source. Currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose, are all contributing factors that must be examined when determining whether a specific source is fit for use.
Each category includes several questions that you can ask yourself when evaluating a source. The more negative answers, the less reliable that source is. There is no ‘threshold’ or specific number of negative answers that ‘disqualifies’ a source. Instead, you must rely on your intuition and experience evaluating other sources, to determine whether or not you think the source in question meets your standards.
Currency: The timeliness of the information
When was the information published?
Has the information been updated or revised?
Is the information current or out-of-date?
If there are links, are they functional?
Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs
Does the information relate to the topic and/or answer the question?
Who is the intended audience?
Is the information designed for an appropriate level?
Have you looked at multiple sources before choosing this one?
Would you be comfortable using this source for your research assignment?
Authority: The source of the information
Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
Are their credentials or organizational affiliations given?
If they are provided, what are they?
Ar the qualifications related to the topic they are writing on?
Is there contact information for the author?
If it’s a website, does the URL reveal anything about the source?
Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Has the information been reviewed or edited?
Can you verify the information from a different source?
Does it seem to be free of emotion and unbiased?
Are there spelling, grammar, or other errors?
Purpose: The reason the information exists
What is the purpose of the information?
Does the author make their intentions or purpose clear?
Is the information factual? Opinion? Propaganda?
Does their point of view appear objective and impartial?
Are there any political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?