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How to: Evaluate Sources


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As you gather information that is useful for your research paper, you also must evaluate the sources of your information for credibility. A credible source is one that was written by an expert in their field and is free of errors and overt bias. Information that is not valid and accurate is plentiful in both online and in print, so it is important to know where to look and how to evaluate your sources.

IF I APPLY is an acronym that can help. Source evaluation starts with you and how you view the information you are seeking. Your personal feelings on your topic can cloud your judgement.

Personal steps

  • Identify emotions attached to topic.
  • Find unbiased overview of topic. The database Credo can help.


  • Intellectual courage to seek out credible information.  Do not fear evidence that does not conform to your own feelings.

Source steps

  • Authority established. Does the author have education and experience in the field that they are discussing? If not, can you find a source that does?
  • Purpose/Point of view of source. Does the author have an agenda beyond education? Does the author gain money or political power? Try to find a source that does not directly profit from pushing an agenda.
  • Publisher? Does the publisher have an agenda beyond education?  Does the author support one political party or ideology?
  • List of sources (bibliography). Is the evidence sound? Is the evidence from reputable sources? Can the information be confirmed?
  • Year of publication.  Does the year of publication effect the information?

What to look for: A questionable source is one in which you can’t answer several of these questions OR you detect significant bias (even if it agrees with your feelings). Note that your research topic may require you to find opinions on a topic. If so, lean heavily on sources that include an author with education and experience in the field who supports their opinions with cited and valid evidence.

Ask a Librarian if you are ever unsure about the credibility of your source or if you are having trouble finding the information that you need. Librarians are here to help you whether you are a beginner or advanced in your research skills. Simply click to view all options for connecting with a librarian: you can chat, text, call, or email a librarian your questions. You can even schedule a research consultation where a librarian can evaluate your sources with you and demonstrate best practices. To schedule a one-on-one 30 minute or 60 minute research consultation, click

Source Evaluation