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How to: Evaluate Sources


As a grad student...

...source evaluation and critically analyzing scholarly articles is likely a regular occurrence. As an advanced researcher, you should be routinely checking your personal biases prior to conducting literature reviews and using your critical thinking skills to explore the authority of a source by checking credentials, affiliations, and expertise of the lead author. One way to do this is via lateral reading, a technique discussed on the previous tab used to investigate the author and publisher, and/or information manipulation, de-contextualization, and potential controversies.

To review how to systematically evaluate a source, remember the source steps of IF I APPLY

  • Authority 
  • Purpose/Point of view of source
  • Publisher
  • List of sources (bibliography)
  • Year of publication

How to evaluate a source will vary as you advance in your discipline, and the focus of your evaluation may shift slightly depending on your needs and goals.

For example, evaluating historical research includes reviewing authenticity and provenance of primary sources. If you are evaluating an original study such as an experiment, you will need to evaluate the methodology.

Regardless of discipline, you will need to carefully consider evidence:

  • Review the author’s main arguments and note what evidence is used. Is the evidence credible and does it logically support the argument? When appropriate, were count-arguments and opposing evidence considered?
  • If the author conducted a study, what methodological procedure was used? Was the method appropriate and logical for the research question? For example, if the research question was to analyze teenagers’ perceptions of video games, were teenagers interviewed, or were their parents?

Going further into source evaluation:

  • Consider whether the research was financed by a grant funding, or outside (corporate) funding. Outside funding could introduce bias. Does the entity who funded the study have a great deal to gain from the findings? If so, pay close attention to findings, and triangulate the results with grant-funded studies when possible.
  • Within your discipline, find out if some journals are considered more credible than others. Your professors may want you to find ‘high impact’ articles that are cited heavily within the field. To find these, librarians can help!
  • Find out whose voices are prominent in your field, and whose perspectives are excluded or have been minimized. Seek out diverse voices whenever possible to gain the most understanding. 

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

Scan and Evaluate a Scholarly Article